Gaston Gimenez happy to stay with Fire after signing new contract

Gimenez is no longer a designated player, and said the new deal benefits both him and the Fire.

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Gaston Gimenez is back with the Fire, but not as a designated player.

Courtesy of the Fire

During his Fire tenure, Gaston Gimenez’s performance always has been measured against his contract and salary. Signed as a designated player before the 2020 season, Gimenez has been a mainstay in the Fire’s midfield. But critics have argued his production and role haven’t matched his DP status.

This season, Gimenez might be judged by a different standard.

In October, Gimenez and the Fire agreed to a new contract through the 2025 season. Crucially for the Fire, Gimenez is no longer a DP, which might compel some observers to look at the 31-year-old veteran in a different way. Perhaps the things he does well — organizing the midfield, hitting passes to connect the attack to the back line — won’t be overshadowed by the lack of goals, assists and flashy moments that usually define a high-priced DP.

Gimenez’s mindset hasn’t changed, even if his contract has. The contract, Gimenez said, isn’t important. Doing things “the right way” is more crucial.

“I never felt any pressure in my life as far as playing [soccer] goes,” Gimenez said through a translator. “It’s my job. It’s what I do. I take it seriously as my job, as my profession, no matter the contract I have.”

Gimenez, who was somewhat controversially re-signed as a designated player in December 2021 through the 2023 season by sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer, said his new contract was convenient for the Fire and himself. The team wanted to open a DP spot, and Gimenez and his family are happy in Chicago.

“It really benefitted both of us doing [the new contract] in that way,” said Gimenez, who earned $2,360,667 in guaranteed compensation last year, according to the MLS Players Association. “Money was never an issue, money was never a problem. We’re just really happy here, so we were able to reach that agreement and everyone can be happy.”

When he signed the new contract, Gimenez was a little more than a month removed from season-ending surgery Aug. 24 to repair a right hamstring injury. Now, with the opener March 4 two weeks away, Gimenez said he’s feeling very good and is incrementally getting better physically. But on Friday, coach Ezra Hendrickson said Gimenez is dealing with an unspecified injury that could be caused by overcompensating for the hamstring, and wouldn’t commit to him being available for the opener.

Besides his fitness, where Gimenez fits in Hendrickson’s lineup also will be worth watching as the season gets going.

Pending injuries, Federico Navar-ro seems entrenched in one of the Fire’s deep-lying midfield slots. To pair with Navarro, the Fire have options that include Mauricio Pineda, Fabian Herbers and the intriguing possibility of using young designated player Jairo Torres deeper in the formation.

Rather than fretting about the potential competition, Gimenez said it’s a good thing for the Fire to have choices in the midfield.

And regardless of how many minutes he gets, Gimenez knows his role will stay the same: arrange the midfield, communicate and give “100% every day.”

“That’s what’s important,” he said. “First is the team, and after that is everything on an individual level.”

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