BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Chicago Fire FC are a work in progress. The full roster is finally in training together, while new homegrown players are added seemingly by the day. The squad that the Fire and head coach Raphael Wicky traveled to their first two games with, featuring the same starting XI, is far from what it will look like in a few weeks’ time.
Despite gaining just one point from their opening two games, a last-minute loss at the Seattle Sounders and hard-fought draw at the New England Revolution, there is no shortage of optimism around a team that feels strongly that they’re already constructing a solid foundation. The cornerstone of that has been Spanish midfielder Alvaro Medran, who has stood out immediately in his first two games in Major League Soccer. It’s curious that Medran is the star, given that he’s the one new player Wicky and general manager Georg Heitz didn’t pick.
“I think both are coaches that like to keep the ball, so as a player who likes to have the ball it favors you,” Medran said via the translator for former Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, who signed him at the end of the 2019 season, and Wicky. “I like to watch a lot of football and learn a lot about it, so I learn a bit about different formations and different styles so it’s easier to adapt.”
You would never know that Medran was not hand-selected for Wicky’s tactics, running the show and exuding confidence on the ball in what has been his first game action in almost a year since his contract with Valencia expired.
“The last game I had played was in May of last year,” said Medran, formerly of Real Madrid but who most recently lined up on loan for Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. “What I’ve always really needed is that continuity of playing games and once I keep going…I’m going to keep getting better.”
Medran insists he is still not quite match fit, which will come as shocking to anyone who has watched his early performances but will be incredibly exciting for Fire fans. If he trends up from here, Chicago will have undoubtedly gotten themselves a steal by only having to spend Targeted Allocation Money on a premium midfield maestro.
“I think he’s a player that makes the game easy, he’s a simple player to play with,” said Fire assistant coach Frank Klopas. “I think we’ve only seen glimpses of his ability and what he’s able to do. He’s obviously got tremendous quality, you see on the ball his ability to calm the game down…to get rhythm into the game.”
He pointed specifically to a play in the New England game, where Medran secured a loose ball in traffic, burst away from the crowd, and played a swerving outside-of-the-foot ball forward for Przemyslaw Frankowski who was only denied a goal by a great save.
"That’s something I think we’re going to see more and more with every match as he continues to gain his fitness,” said Klopas. “He’s a world-class player with a lot of qualities. I’m excited and all our fans should be too.”