The steady return of injured players over the last three weeks culminated in Chicago Fire FC’s first win of the season last weekend, and it’s a trend that could continue this Saturday.
On Wednesday’s weekly call with media members, head coach Raphael Wicky revealed that midfielder Ignacio Aliseda has been back in full training, and could be available for selection as soon as this weekend’s match against CF Montréal.
“He's doing better,” Wicky said. “He's back in full team training. So yeah, we are day-by-day and hopefully everything is well and he can be available for Saturday.”
Aliseda has played just 24 minutes to this point in the 2021 regular season while dealing with a lingering left thigh injury. He came on for midfielder Luka Stojanović in the second half of the Fire’s season-opening 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, but has missed the five matches since.
“I’m doing well,” Aliseda said via CFFC translator Elizabeth Sanchez. “Doing very well. I think being injured helped me to see some things - some good things and some bad things - that sometimes when you're in the thick of it, you don't always know this.”
With a renewed sense of energy and an ever-deepening comfort level with his surroundings, Aliseda felt primed to hit the ground running when the MLS season began on April 17. The 21-year-old endured a challenging first season in the league, being away from his family for the first time in a different country amid a global pandemic. He spoke at length about the obstacles that 2020 presented with the Chicago Tribune’s Andrew Golden back in late March.
Suffering an injury in week one was a setback, but Aliseda found comfort in keeping a team-first perspective.
“It’s a little bit complicated to be injured, because sometimes you're home alone by yourself and you see how the team is doing, and you always want to be there to help,” he said.
“I think what I learned was to be a better teammate, to be there supporting our players and my teammates more. When you're not doing so well, it's always nice to feel the support from your teammates, so it was important to me to be there to know that we are all supporting each other and that we are a team together.”
Aliseda’s is one of several injuries that Wicky and the Fire have been forced to navigate during the early part of this season. Among the attacking unit alone, midfielders Fabian Herbers and Elliot Collier have only recently returned, while 2021 arrival Stanislav Ivanov has been sidelined since March 23 when it was announced he’d undergone a successful arthroscopic meniscus repair procedure.
Like Collier and Herbers, Aliseda’s re-addition to the attack will be a welcome one when the time comes.
“At the beginning of the season it cost us a little bit, because we had a lot of people who were injured,” Aliseda said. “Now, we are almost all 100 percent back. I think, looking forward to Saturday, we are going to be able to get a streak going where we are going to do a lot of good things.”
“I’m obviously happy that these players are coming back,” Wicky added. “I’m happy that Fabi (Herbers) is back. I'm happy that everyone is back. Miguel (Navarro) is back. Carlos (Terán) is back. I'm happy that Nacho is coming back. That gives us way more options.”
The Fire picked up their first win of the 2021 campaign last weekend in a 1-0 victory over Inter Miami CF, and will hope to make it two in a row when CF Montréal visits Soldier Field this Saturday at noon.
As the weekend nears, Aliseda is optimistic about seeing the field. The Argentine Young Designated Player was a regular for Wicky in his first season in Chicago, appearing in 20 matches and starting in 16. As he now attempts to re-establish himself among the preferred XI, he’ll be looking to build upon the goal and two assists he contributed in 2020 and show Fire fans the full range of his abilities.
“I really want to play with the people and with the fans out there,” he said. “The (New England) game that I was out on the bench, you could really feel the fans and feel the people there. It's very motivating. Last year it was really hard because there was nobody there. It was empty and it takes a little bit away from football. With people there, you can really feel their energy. It's a different type of atmosphere.”
“I’m really motivated to come out and return and play in front of our fans, and hopefully give them a victory because they really deserve it.”