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Away from home, Fire’s Ignacio Aliseda a reminder of MLS challenges

Many young players like the Argentinan Aliseda, 21, hail from faraway places, and getting them acclimated and comfortable is key, which was made harder by the pandemic.

Ignacio Aliseda celebrates one of his goals during the Fire’s win over Atlanta United.
Courtesy of the Fire

After his two-goal performance Saturday night to help beat Atlanta United, Fire forward Ignacio Aliseda was asked how it felt to score twice. His answer wasn’t just about soccer.

“This year has been a little bit difficult as was last year not having my family here in Chicago with me,” Aliseda said through a translator. “They gave me strength from far away from where they are. Last night, I fell asleep knowing that I would have the strength and confidence today to go out there and I know they are with me wherever I am.”

Aliseda’s words are another reminder of the unique challenges of MLS. Many young players like the Argentinan Aliseda, 21, hail from faraway places, and getting them acclimated and comfortable is key.

That was made even harder by COVID-19, which effectively stopped players from getting to know their new homes and squelched most international travel. When he talked about the topic in late May, Aliseda discussed how his mother, Lorena, hasn’t been able to see him play in Chicago due to travel restrictions.

Signed as a designated player during the 2019-20 offseason, Aliseda hopes his mom will be able to visit the city by the end of this year or by 2022. In late May, Aliseda was open about how he misses his family.

Then after his finest night with the Fire —one that earned him MLS player of the week honors — Aliseda said he has been preparing and working hard to push forward, and he again mentioned his loved ones.

“I’m alone at home, but I always try to be close to my family,” Aliseda said. “We have phone calls, I talk to them, we’re always together. I always feel them close [by] and it was my mom who told me to forget about everything and just go out and do what I like to do best, which is play football.

“So I feel their support and I’ve been working harder than I’ve ever worked before, harder than normal. I always feel the support from my family, which is the most important thing.”

Asked about Aliseda in June, Fire coach Raphael Wicky said the team has been there for the players when they arrive, helping them get used to their new home as much as possible. The Fire also have numerous Spanish-speaking players, which also helps. Loosening of pandemic-related restrictions is another benefit, allowing Aliseda and others in a similar situation to become more familiar with Chicago.

Wicky, who experienced something like Aliseda as a young player when he left Switzerland for Germany, said it’s important for players to keep in touch with their families.

But, at the same time, that isn’t a substitute for the real thing.

Wicky said he feels for Aliseda.

“It’s just as a footballer or as an athlete in general, you often have a lot of time after training and between training,” Wicky said, “and if then you cannot have your family and friends there, that sometimes hurts a lot.”