What U22 Initiative signing Federico Navarro brings to Chicago Fire FC

It was a lengthy process filled with delays and logistical hurdles, but at long last Federico Navarro has arrived at Chicago Fire FC.

The 21-year-old midfielder was originally announced as a signing on Aug. 6, with the deal sealed before the Secondary Transfer Window closed. He joined from CA Talleres in his native Argentina as a U22 Initiative player.

After touching down in Chicago and joining his new team for training, the next step becomes integrating Navarro into the Eastern Conference club's stretch run.

"I think it was a very correct decision for me, I couldn't have made a better next step," Navarro told reporters through a translator during an introductory video call Thursday. "As a player, you're always looking to grow and get better and that's what I'm trying to do. Especially here with the Fire, ever since I learned about their interest it was a priority for me and the people around me to get here and make this step."

Navarro's integration is in its earliest stages, but head coach Raphael Wicky said that early returns have reinforced why they landed him through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026. He projects as fitting into a central-park crew that includes Gaston Gimenez and Alvaro Medran, as well as Luka Stojanovic and Fabian Herbers.

In fact, Navarro could factor into Chicago's Week 24 game, when they head to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

"He's a little bit of a different profile than our other midfielders and I think that's a good addition to our team, an addition which we need," Wicky said. "We will need him in these upcoming weeks and especially as well moving forward to the end of the season and next season. If nothing happens tomorrow in training and he feels as well, he will be in the squad to travel to Sporting Kansas City."

Wicky said he sees Navarro as a prototypical defensive midfielder – the type of player who may not be the flashiest, but has a willingness and aptitude for doing the dirty work that can often fly under the radar. That can surface as making challenges on the ball or hounding opposing attackers on defense.

"I think Federico is a real defensive midfielder," Wicky said. "I wouldn't call him a No. 6, he's just a defensive midfielder. He has the strengths; we call these guys a ball-winner. I was for a big part of my career a player like that – I call them sometimes more of a carrier. Their role is to recover balls, do more of the dirty work. He's a good footballer, he can play football, but we have different expectations for him and he knows his role and he feels comfortable in that.

"That's what he was known for in Argentina, he was a ball-winner, he covers a lot of ground, he's a good footballer on top of that. But he will probably not be the guy who is always playing the last pass, the decisive pass. If he does we're happy with that too. ... Federico is a real holding midfielder who covers ground, recovers balls and does this kind of work, and that's a good addition for our team."

While that may be his primary role, Navarro described himself as a versatile threat who can make his presence felt on the other side of the ball as well.

"I think I'm here to provide a lot," he said. "My characteristics are more offensive-minded, I bring a lot of dynamic movement and I think that fits the league very well. I think what I bring is also a lot of equilibrium and I can cover a lot of spaces."

Navarro is Chicago's second U22 Initiative signing, with Colombian striker Jhon Jader Duran set to join for the 2022 campaign.