As MLS designated players go, Ignacio Aliseda was a bit of a gamble. When he signed with the Chicago Fire, the Argentina native was still only 19 (he’s since turned 20), and unlike most other DPs, he didn’t have a huge amount of first team matches under his belt.
A journalist from Argentina raved about to Hot Time about what fellow Argentinian designated player Gastón Giménez would bring to Chicago. But when we asked him about Aliseda, he wasn’t as sure, calling him “young” and “potentially an asset.” Not the strongest endorsement.
Aliseda got to Chicago shortly before the New England match in March, but he did not play. Then the COVID-19 shutdown hit, and “Nacho” was stuck in a new country—alone—before he got to really get to know his teammates.
“Yeah, at first it was very difficult,” Aliseda said in Spanish. “You know, you’re coming into a new country without knowing the language, without knowing the traditions or the customs of the country. It was hard to be around people where not a lot of people spoke the same language I did. And it was hard for me, I think even in Orlando it was hard for me.”
It was Orlando when Fire fans really started to worry about their new signing. Aliseda was an unused sub in the Fire’s 2-1 win over Seattle. And he came on in the 90th minute of the 2-0 loss to San Jose. Rumors started to swirl that he was struggling in training. Was he already a bust?
In the Fire’s third match of the MLS is Back tournament against Vancouver, Aliseda finally got significant minutes—playing an hour, coming off for CJ Sapong just before the weather delay that doomed the Fire’s run there.
“That was the first time he actually played, more or less with the guys,” Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said of Aliseda. “Even there, he showed some good moments.”
It was after that loss to Vancouver that Aliseda knew he needed to work harder if he was going to have success in MLS.
“I came back here and I put my head down and got it into my mind that I was going to try my best to be better for the club, and work hard for the club,” Aliseda said. “I think that’s where putting my head down is what’s going to help me and what is going to be better for the club.”
In the first post-Orlando match, a 3-0 away loss to the Columbus Crew, Aliseda was absolutely one of the bright spots for the Fire, putting in his full 90 minutes shift for the club. He played as a central attacking midfielder in that match—a position he says he prefers over playing as a wide attacker.
“In Columbus he had a lot of good moments,” Wicky said. “He works hard. He’s integrating better and better. I think for Nacho it wasn’t an easy time coming here in March, then immediately being in locked down and being at home, away from family. I think in the beginning he was in a hotel and an empty apartment, now knowing anyone, couldn’t see anyone. So, I think that was quite hard on Nacho for those three months.”
Aliseda scored his first goal for the Fire—a beautiful team goal with a left-footed finish—in the 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati at Soldier Field. And he went all 90 minutes in the 3-1 loss to New York City FC over the weekend. He failed to score, but Aliseda looked dangerous in the match.
“I really feel like I’ve become a greater part of the team,” he said after the loss. “My teammates have really helped me and brought me into the group a little bit more, and the technical staff has shown a lot of confidence in me, so I think I really feel like we’re coming together as a group and it was just the couple details that had made us lose the game today.”
Aliseda is beginning to find his footing with the Fire. He’s formed a strong friendship with left back Miguel Navarro, and the two are taking English lessons together after training. He has his first goal under his belt, and he’s become a regular starter for the team.
Now comes the big question: can Ignacio Aliseda help the Fire become a winning team? Wicky is hopeful he can.
“What I saw the last three to four weeks is very promising and, again, we believe in this player,” Wicky said. “He is a very interesting player and I’m sure he will do very well for Chicago Fire in the future.”