When Álvaro Medrán got to Chicago Fire training camp early last season, it had been nearly a year since he’d last played a competitive match. Medrán was injured playing for Rayo Vallecano in Spain, then had a long rehab, followed by a long MLS off-season after signing with the Fire in late 2019.
Multiple times in early 2020, Medrán told reporters he was still recovering and gaining match fitness, and we’d “see the real Álvaro soon.” Medrán finished the 2020 season with two goals and three assists, and some strong midfield showings alongside Gastón Giménez.
But in 2021, he wants to improve. He says it’s time to show what the real Álvaro can do.
“I will try to do better than last season,” Medrán told reporters through a translator this week. “I have the goal of playing more, really bring forth my best for the team. I’m going to do my best to put myself out there, get more goals, get more assists. Last year I was able to play all of the games, which was really important for me. This year, that’s another goal, to play every game, not get injured, and just get myself on the board with more goals and more assists.”
Fire head coach Raphael Wicky wants a big season from his Spanish midfielder, as well. After a week of quarantine in Orlando, Medrán was finally able to join his teammates in full team training on Monday. Wicky says Medrán will play in Saturday’s preseason match against the Philadelphia Union (2 p.m. CT, streamed live at ChicagoFireFC.com), but his minutes might be limited since he’s regaining his match fitness. But once the season starts, Wicky expects Medrán to be fully fit, and ready to give more for the club.
“I obviously expect more from Álvaro this year,” Wicky said. “Last year we had to slowly build him back up to game fitness, which took awhile, then the big break came in the middle of March. Obviously that didn’t really help. Then we were very happy that Álvaro was able to play every single game for the season, which in Spain he didn’t really have in the years before. We were happy with that.”
Medrán has been taking English classes since joining the Fire, and it’s clear his skills are improving. He smiled and reacted to most reporters asking questions in English this week, showing he understood, and he said by the end of the season, he hopes to be able to answer in English, too. His language skills will no doubt make him more comfortable with his teammates (although many of them speak Spanish), and in his new city and country.
Medrán also recently received his U.S. green card. The process delayed his arrival back in the U.S.—which is why he only joined his teammates on Monday—but it means he no longer takes up an international slot on the roster.
For a guy who hasn’t had a lot of stability in his career—he spent brief stints at a number of Spanish clubs including Real Madrid—he’s poised to string together two straight seasons in one spot. He’s learning English, he has his green card, and the club holds a 2022 option on his contract. Is Medrán planning on making Chicago a long-term stop?
“It’s true that I haven’t had the stability that I would have liked in my career,” Medrán said. “Chicago is really showing me that. I feel really good here in this club. Chicago has shown me that they appreciate me, feel good about me here, as well. So hopefully the two parts can work together so there can be many more years of my career here in Chicago. I will do my best to give what I can for the club, and hopefully that will translate into many more years together.”
Like all of his teammates who came in last season, Medrán has never played a home game in front of Fire fans. There’s been no official announcement on whether fans will be allowed to attend the April 17th home opener at Soldier Field against the New England Revolution, but Medrán is hopeful.
“It will be incredible,” he said with a smile. “There really isn’t another word for it. A lot of times I had thought about the two goals I scored last year at Soldier Field, which were nice goals. I thought about what it would have been like if there had been fans there.
“So I think with the great stadium that we have, it will just be amazing to have fans in the stadium, in the stands. I think it’s extra motivation for the team. I really hope it will be able to happen this year, hopefully from the very beginning.”