There was a bit of a surprise Wednesday when the Chicago Fire announced the sale of Gaston Puerari (pictured right) to Club Atlas in Mexico.
If it seemed like he’d just arrived in the Windy City, its only because he had. The Uruguayan striker signed with the club just over four months ago, making an impact on the field with a few important goals and as a character in the Fire locker room.
Puerari, who was sought after in the offseason by then-Santos Laguna coach Ruben Omar Romano, the Uruguayan striker eventually signed with the Fire on February 3. Puerari’s play with the Fire didn’t dissuade Romano from interest in the player and when the Argentine recently signed on as the manager at Club Atlas, “el Carnicero” was one of the new coach’s prime transfer targets.
“With every situation we’re not in a business where we bring players and move them – we want to build a team and bring players in long term,” said Fire technical director and interim head coach Frank Klopas. “In every situation you look at it and sometimes certain players are maybe better suited in different leagues. We looked at this situation and it was a good opportunity for Gaston and for us now we can look forward and improve our team.”
With Puerari gone and an international roster spot opened on the Fire roster, speculation rose Thursday that the club was after former Mexican international Pavel Pardo (pictured left) would be a summer target for Frank Klopas but the manager seemed to brush aside that interest following Thursday’s training session.
“Pavel is a good player, he’s a quality player but we’re looking at many different options. We’re going to make a selection that is best suited for what we think we need in the team now and in the future. He’s had a fantastic career but we have some good options that we’re looking at, we just have to make some decisions now.”
Who benefits the most?
Nineteen-year-old striker Orr Barouch seems to be the player that will benefit the most from Puerari’s move, at least according to the Facebook poll the club posed on Thursday. The Israeli-born forward has seen time in 12 of the team’s 14 regular season matches this season (all as a substitute) and perhaps like his name in Hebrew (which means “light”) was the spark in helping the side end its club record 11-match winless streak in Sunday’s 1-0 win at Columbus.
Minutes before helping setup Cristian Nazarit’s stoppage time winner in Columbus, Barouch hit the bar for the second time in four days after nearly converting a chance in the 0-0 deadlock at Kansas City last Thursday.
“Against Kansas City I was one on one with the keeper, I just tried to place it and it ended up coming off the bar – that was a bit unlucky. Against Columbus I took a shot, I thought it was going in for sure but it came off the bar again. Sometimes that happens, I’m glad the chances are being created though.”
Klopas is high on Barouch’s performance thus far, giving a lot of confidence to the young striker, currently on loan from Mexico’s Tigres.
“I give him a lot of credit because he has the personality for a young player that once he steps on the field he’s a guy that wants the ball and wants to make things happen. At times when you put him in the game where the pace of the game settles, he finds good spots. Technically he’s very good in one-on-one situations and in tight spaces and he’s got a great shot from distance. He’s the kind of guy that looks for opportunities like that because he wants to make a difference.”
At the moment, it looks as if Klopas will continue to start the team's joint leading scorer Diego Chaves up top with Nazarit, while pseudo strikers, turned wingers Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro will continue on the flanks (with Marco Pappa's Gold Cup absence).
With the club set to start a span of five matches in 15 days (4 league and 1 US Open Cup) beginning with Saturday’s night’s visit to New England, one would expect Barouch to likely make his first start for the club soon as Klopas will have to manage the stretch of games.
“In a team you have players you have to give confidence and rely on. I think situations happen and there are opportunities for players to take advantage of that. I think we do have players, depending on how the game goes, to put into the right situation. Players that are ready mentally and physically that can step in and help the team.”
Another player likely to benefit from Puerari’s exit is striker Gabriel Ferrari (pictured right) . The former U.S. youth international has surprised many with his speed and skill on the ball given his size and has shown well in some of the club’s early reserve matches after being hampered by a few injuries since signing with the Fire during preseason.