Jhon Duran, Brian Gutierrez show Chicago Fire's future: "The ceiling is very, very high"

Jhon Duran Brian Gutierrez celebrate

Last week, during the September international break, Chicago Fire FC striker Jhon Duran made his senior debut for Colombia in victories over Mexico and Guatemala.

That certainly gave the 18-year-old some confidence, as he scored twice in a 3-2 win at FC Cincinnati on Saturday night. It was Duran’s third brace of the year, making him Chicago’s leading goalscorer during the 2022 campaign and second in combined goals and assists (11) behind only Switzerland international star Xherdan Shaqiri (18). 

Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson knows Duran has a high ceiling.

“He is a player that, once he gets it all together, he can be a really, really special player,” Hendrickson said. “He has all the tools.”

Duran wasn’t the only Fire youngster to shine at TQL Stadium, even though they’ve been eliminated from Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs contention for several weeks. Homegrown midfielder Brian Gutierrez assisted on both of Duran's goals and added one of his own, maintaining strong form after representing the United States U-20s last week at the Revelations Cup in Mexico City.

Similarly, Hendrickson believes Gutierrez has a bright future after having recently signed a long-term contract extension.

“Guti, as well, he's a very good player; his vision, his ability on the ball,” said the first-year manager. “He needs to get a little stronger on the ball and sometimes maybe see some things a little quicker.”

Chicago wrap up their 2022 campaign next Sunday when hosting the New England Revolution on Decision Day. While their offseason begins afterward, Hendrickson hopes what he's seen from both Duran and Gutierrez can carry over to 2023 and help change their fortunes.

“The ceiling is very, very high for both of those guys, and that's why they are playing,” Hendrickson said. “When guys show in practice that they are ready to step on the pitch and play, they will get minutes, and these two have especially excelled throughout the year. We like the progress that they have been making and it showed tonight.”