Nicolas Gaitan
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New York Red Bulls will square up against former Argentine international Nicolas Gaitan in his MLS debut.

When the next team on the schedule employs a player who has led the UEFA Champions League in assists alongside former Ballon d’Or winners Kaka and Lionel Messi, concern should commence.

To add to leading the Champions League in assists in 2012, Chicago Fire new midfielder Nicolas Gaitan was named Primeira Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2011, racked 16 appearances for national team juggernauts Argentina, and played for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

Gaitan is as all-around an attacking midfielder as one can get. He’s creative, hence he can deliver sublime final passes. He’s also capable of taking on players, plays well in small spaces and in open space, knows how to score, and is comfortable playing on the wings.

Although Gaitan has been a Chicago player since March 14, the New York Red Bulls are the unlucky team he will make his MLS debut against on Saturday on his home field, SeatGeek Stadium.

It’s not a question of whether or not the Red Bulls should be concerned about taking on Gaitan, but rather to what degree.

RBNY has done a decent job against players who played in Europe’s top level. Ex-Manchester United man Luis Nani struggled against New York on Saturday because of his opponents’ combative spirit.

Wayne Rooney found the net once and didn’t register an assist in his first three games against Chris Armas’s men. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic went scoreless in his lone match against the Red Bulls.

Hence New York’s players are strong enough mentally to square up with Gaitan. However, RBNY players’ confidence isn’t their strongest point going into their first match against the Argentinian. It’s fitness. The playmaker hasn’t played since Nov. 10, 2018, and he’s 31 years of age. Most of the Supporters’ Shield champions’ starters appeared in six matches so far this season.

The San Martin native might not play a full 90.

On the flip side, New York’s most threating feature about going against Gaitan is the team’s style of play.

As known, RBNY is a pressing team. This could leave space in the midfield for Gaitan to express himself. The 31-year-old will more than likely go against Sean Davis and Marc Rzatkowski in the middle of the pitch. One of Davis’s best attributes is his tenacity, which would help the Red Bulls tremendously.

But if Gaitan does manage to hit killer final passes—he probably will send in a couple. The Jersey-based club does have two of the best defenders in the MLS, Aaron Long and Tim Parker, to deal with them.

On that note, New York is a physical team. As mentioned, Nani struggled last week against New York mainly because of the hard challenges. Rooney himself noted how physical the league is after arriving from Europe. RBNY will more than likely give the Chicago midfielder the same treatment they gave Nani.

Gaitan will receive a couple of blows but he might also skip past some of the New York players’ challenges with that magic left foot.

Elsewhere, to The Metros’ favor, Gaitan will only have two days of training before playing against them. He might not fully click with his teammates right away. In fact, the playmaker never scored nor assisted in his first game with a team.

But of course, not finding the net or sending an assist doesn’t mean you’re not connecting with your teammates. For a player with Gaitan’s experience and talent, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to somewhat gel with his new teammates this weekend.

Overall, how much should New York be concerned about Gaitan? Seven, on a scale from one to 10 sounds like a reasonable number to answer that question.

As noted, the midfielder hasn’t played since November 10 and it will be his first ever MLS match. The New York Red Bulls can consider themselves fortunate that one of the two times they will play Chicago during the regular season will be the former Boca Juniors’ man MSL debut.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.