If it was possible to reduce Chicago Fire FC's 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati in their long-awaited Soldier Field homecoming Tuesday night to one source, it was the blossoming partnership in midfield between playmaker Alvaro Medran and box-to-box workhorse Gaston Gimenez.
Gimenez provided a gorgeous opening assist and earned man of the match honors and Medran scored a wonderful second goal from distance in a performance that was easily the duo's most symbiotic of the season.
Afterward, Medran suggested that chemistry was still just beginning between the two imports who are among the focal points of the club's dramatic roster overhaul since last season.
"We like to keep possession, so being able to speak the same language helps a lot," the Spaniard said of his Argentine-Paraguayan teammate, through an interpreter. "We also are players that need games to get going, get the rhythm going. And I think that with the passage of time, we’ll be able to hit our rhythm and keep getting better and playing better soccer."
The hope is sooner than later, that partnership can be on display before the kind of crowd that was expected for the Fire's originally scheduled home opener on March 21, which was wiped away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For all the joy of a dominant win in the club's first downtown match since 2005, and a result that snapped a three-match regular season losing and scoreless streak, the absence of the the 40,000-plus who had already purchased tickets by early March added some bittersweetness.
"It’s a big stadium, but it’s still very, very tight," coach Raphael Wicky said of his first matchday at Soldier Field. "It’s a great experience. Obviously we wish that today there would’ve been 50,000, 60,000 people here and we would’ve been able to celebrate — in a normal world — this victory. Because I can only imagine how it must feel here, to win games and score goals in a full stadium."
That won't happen for some time. But Medran believes the Fire's old digs turned new ones can be a fortress anyway.
"This year has been a little bit different, weird, bizarre for everyone," he said. "But, while things changed and we have to adapt and make the best of every situation. Even though we didn’t have fans here, there weren’t fans in the audience, we have to do our best to make the stadium feel at home. To grow strong here, and make this a place where we can go out and win games."