Is Fire midfielder Gaston Gimenez performing like a Designated Player?

To some, Gimenez is a DP who hasn’t had the game-breaking moments to justify his contract. To others, he’s an important cog who makes crucial contributions that might go under the radar.

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Gaston Gimenez is earning praise from Fire coach Ezra Hendrickson.

Courtesy of the Fire

What is the value of midfielder Gaston Gimenez?

To some, he’s a Designated Player who hasn’t had the game-breaking moments to justify his contract. To others, he’s an important cog who makes crucial contributions that might go under the radar.

After Saturday’s 0-0 tie with Orlando City, coach Ezra Hendrickson made it clear where he stands.

“Gaston, he showed me something very, very special,” Hendrickson said. “The way he played today, the ground he covered today. That’s what you need to see from your DP. And that trickles down. You know, when the young guy sees your DP making tackles like that and working hard like that. You have no choice. You know, it’s contagious.”

Playing a more defensive role with Hendrickson choosing to keep midfielder Federico Navarro on the bench, Gimenez led the Fire with 11 recoveries and three shots. He also tied for the lead with four tackles won and completed 35 passes, matching defender Rafael Czichos for second most on the team.

However, Gimenez appeared to lose track of the ball in the buildup to Orlando City’s goal that was waved off after review. His attempts on goal also did little to trouble Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, a pattern that continued after he pulled a prime chance wide during the Fire’s season-opening 0-0 draw with Inter Miami.

So in a lot of ways, the first two weeks of this season are a perfect microcosm of why Gimenez divides opinion. For his part, Gimenez insists he doesn’t think much about the debate around his play.

“Some people are going to like it more than others,” Gimenez said Wednesday through a translator. “Some people are going to disagree and some people are going to be fine with it but I don’t really have much more to say on the topic. I do know, however, that every time I go out, my intention is always to leave everything out on the field and to take the club as high as possible and to help the team in every way that I can.”

If Gimenez weren’t a DP, the discourse around him would be different. Teams need players who contribute in ways that don’t always result in goals, something Gimenez is doing in a role that’s a little different than the deep-lying distributor he was expected to be.

That said, Gimenez is in his third season as a Fire DP. And there’s an argument that what Gimenez is doing for the Fire could be provided by players who aren’t on a DP deal.

Hendrickson said he looks to Gimenez to be a leader and to carry the team along with attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and striker Kacper Przybylko. In Gimenez’s case, that might not be reflected in the number of goals and assists because of where he’s playing on the field.

“When I look at Saturday’s game, the amount of tackles that he made, the amount of timely tackles he made, the amount of passes that he had intercepted and stuff like that, that’s good to see,” Hendrickson said Wednesday. “Those things can really give you momentum throughout a game.”

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