Fire complete signing of midfielder Nicolas Gaitan
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Midfielder Nicolas Gaitan doesn’t fill all the Fire’s needs. They could use help on the back line and maybe some more depth.
That said, Gaitan will be expected to help plenty.
The Fire announced Thursday that they have signed Gaitan from China’s Dalian Yifang on a free transfer. Gaitan, 31, was signed with discretionary targeted allocation money and is under contract through the end of the season with a team option for 2020.
The transfer, which has been rumored for weeks, might end the Fire’s long-term search for a playmaking central midfielder. That’s the hope for Gaitan, who spent his best years with Benfica (Portugal) and also had played for Boca Juniors (Argentina) and Atletico Madrid (Spain) before moving to China.
‘‘We have wanted to add another attacking piece and believe Nico’s dynamism and playmaking ability could be a perfect fit,’’ Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in a news release.
Gaitan joins a Fire team that already has plenty of attacking options. Along with Gaitan, coach Veljko Paunovic will have to find a way to get the most from Przemysław Frankowski, Djordje Mihailovic and Aleksandar Katai. Forwards Nemanja Nikolic and C.J. Sapong also will be counted on up front, and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty have played deeper in the midfield to begin the season.
Indeed, the lineup will be a puzzle when Gaitan debuts, though it’s unclear when he will play his first game with the Fire. But it’s a puzzle Paunovic is looking forward to solving.
‘‘Nicolas is a player that can destabilize any defense in this league,’’ Paunovic said in a news release. ‘‘He has an enormous amount of talent and is still in his prime. We’re eager to get the most out of his attacking creativity.’’
The Fire (0-1-1) could use that creativity at noon Saturday against the Sounders at SeatGeek Stadium. Sapong has scored the Fire’s only two goals this season, and chances mostly have been squandered.
‘‘I will say that it’s not easy to create opportunities,’’ Paunovic said after the Fire’s game Saturday against Orlando City. ‘‘We’re playing very good. We have to [just get more precision in the final third], and that’s going to come. That’s going to come.’’
Gaitan will be added to the Fire’s roster once he gets his P-1 visa and international transfer certificate. The Fire also paid the Sounders $50,000 in general allocation money for Gaitan’s discovery rights.