In his second MLS start, Nicolas Gaitan had what was easily his most influential game so far in Week 8, providing two assists in the Chicago Fire's comprehensive 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at SeatGeek Stadium and showing why he's the No. 10 they'd been seeking for so long.
His first assist — a cross from the right to find the head of Nemanja Nikolic — was straightforward enough. But was Gaitan's second assist, a half-volleyed, blind pass across the 6-yard box into the path of streaking Djordje Mihailovic, actually intentional?
It's a service that defies belief. Yet Gaitan's reactions and his postgame comments showed his pass-first mentality in that moment.
“Today I could’ve scored a goal but I gave the pass to my teammate even if I could’ve finished. That’s my characteristic and that’s one of the factors why Chicago signed me and why the coach wanted me to come,” Gaitan said postgame. “Every player likes to score, but that’s not my priority. My priority is to help the team play well and then provide assists to my teammates.”
Gaitan is continuing to settle in after his arrival in the Windy City, and was quick to credit his teammates for his improving play over the last few matches since his debut. He also pointed to his improving fitness after the first 90-minute shift of his MLS career.
“The last 5-10 minutes cost me a bit more, but in the last game at minute 60 I was dead,” he admitted. “Today it was the 85th minute. So it’s a good sign that game after game I’m improving physically.”
"I think in crucial moments of the game he showed up," Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said postgame. "He gave the team what we needed, which is a pass sometimes and also sometimes the final pass. That’s something that we were missing in the past and now we have it."