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Gastón Giménez: The Man Dividing Opinion

Gastón Giménez has divided opinion early on in 2022, but head coach Ezra Hendrickson sees him playing an integral role in the growth of this Fire team.

Gaston Gimenez Chicago Fire
Photo: Chicago Fire FC

There admittedly has not been much to write home about when discussing the 2022 Chicago Fire season. Literally.

Many reporters were scratching their heads after the game against Orlando City. All were struggling to come up with potential storylines to pursue.

It is still a young season so there is sure to be plenty to discuss over the coming months. Perhaps a nice victory this weekend against D.C. United could provide some worthy news to report?

But to this point of the season, the main topic of discussion has come in the form of Gastón Giménez.

Reporters and fans alike have asked if Giménez’s performances meet the standards and expectations that come with being a Designated Player.

Many were asking this same question this past offseason when the Fire were cleaning house. Several players were not brought back but, to the surprise of some, Georg Heitz decided to re-sign Giménez to a new two-year contract.

Whatever fans or pundits are saying, one thing is clear: it has not affected Giménez.

“Honestly if people criticize me or don’t criticize me, I’m not thinking too much about it,” Giménez said earlier this week. “In truth, I don’t read anything, I don’t read magazines and I don’t read news articles. I don’t watch anything that is in regard to us. I simply focus on doing my thing and doing my job, and sometimes it comes out well and sometimes it doesn’t.”

It certainly did not come out well at times during the 2021 season. The simple fact is that Giménez was sub-par last year after having a good 2020 season.

From 2020 to 2021, Giménez’s short and medium passing percentage percentiles among MLS midfielders dropped 36% and 45%, respectively. Percentiles for goal and shot-creating actions also dropped 19% and 23%, respectively.

At the same time, Giménez’s defensive stats told a different story. Percentiles for key stats such as percentage of dribblers tackled and successful pressures significantly increased from 2020 to 2021. Other stats like tackles won, interceptions, and ball recoveries remained fairly consistent.

The Only Opinion That Matters

Despite the debate you may see about Giménez on social media or the stats that could tell two different stories, there is only one opinion that matters when it comes to the play of the Fire DP.

That opinion belongs to head coach Ezra Hendrickson, who has been asked about Giménez multiple times as of late.

“He’s one of the guys that we look to help carry this team,” Hendrickson said. “It might not be in the numbers because sometimes we are going to expect him to sit a little deeper, so you might not get the 10 goals, eight assists, as someone who is playing a little higher up the field.”

So what about Giménez’s performances so far this season? Just like he has since he was introduced as the Fire head coach, Hendrickson told it as he saw it. “When I look at [the Orlando City game], the amount of timely tackles that he made, the amount of passes that he had intercepted, that’s good to see.”

Hendrickson continued, “When you see your DP working that hard to win the ball back, it can help [and] inspire the rest of the players to even work harder…But I thought Saturday was a really, really good indication of some of the things that he can do for us this year.”

So, it does seem Giménez’s starting spot is his to lose. Still disagree? Giménez is just focused on one thing.

“I think opinions are to be respected from every angle, from all sides,” Giménez said. “Everyone has their own opinion. 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.”

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