'Playing like a man' - Brian Gutierrez given 'incredible' billing by Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas as he justifies decision not to allow him to join up with USMNT U-20 squad
- Fire blocked Gutierrez and Brady's USMT U-20 moves
- Midfielder impressed in Fire's 1-0 over St. Louis
- Klopas defends decision to keep Gutierrez
WHAT HAPPENED? To the dismay of the players and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), Chicago Fire did not allow youth stars Gutierrez and Chris Brady to join the USMNT U-20 team for the upcoming World Cup in Argentina, so they could be available in the MLS as fixtures keep coming thick and fast.
They were vindicated as Gutierrez played a key role in Fire's 1-0 win over St. Louis City SC, the first game in the third Frank Klopas era after former head coach Ezra Hendrickson was shown the door.
The midfielder hardly put a foot wrong and was effective on both ends of the pitch with his passing and defensive actions, which led Klopas to sing his praises.
WHAT THEY SAID: "[Gutierrez] right now is at a different level and he can continue, he's going to continue to grow and take more responsibility upon himself. But today, he was incredible. Good with the ball, his work rate, key passes, ability to beat players, technical ability – he's got everything in my mind. And you can just see year by year, I've seen him grow and mature even when he was on Fire Academy. He’s really playing like a man now," the manager stated after the victory.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Klopas tried something new as he fielded Gutierrez on the left and Xherdan Shaqiri in the no. 10 role, an option which former coach Hendrickson did not explore much.
The tactician was impressed with what he saw on the pitch as the two players combined seamlessly in the attacking third, which makes him believe that the duo will thrive together to make a "big difference" for Fire.
"There's ways, but it's only through training. They're smart players. You can see at moments how easy it is for them to connect and play together. They're on the same wavelength. So, the more time that they stay injury-free, the sharper they will be. And if that happens, I think you can see a big difference in this team," he added.
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WHAT NEXT? Chicago Fire, currently in the 13th place, will return to action against Charlotte on May 17 in the MLS, hoping to climb up the standings of the Eastern Conference.