PORTLAND, Ore -- Missing big names like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty, the Chicago Fire went to Providence Park and kept their unbeaten run rolling, posting a 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. At the center of the Fire’s eleventh straight match without a loss was midfielder Arturo Alvarez.
With the Timbers effectively shutting down attacking stars David Accam and MLS Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic, it was Alvarez’s goal and assist that ensured the Fire would enter into the Gold Cup break still the hottest team in the league.
“He did a fantastic, fantastic job for the team,” said Fire head coach Veljko Paunović after the match.
Alvarez’s goal, a whipped-in cross to the back post that Nikolic admitted he did not touch and Alvarez admitted was intended as a cross, put the Fire in the match after an early Timbers penalty kick.
“I am there to put in dangerous crosses or make things happen,” Alvarez said after the match.
But Alvarez has not been on the pitch regularly for the Fire this year, getting his first start since April 1 in last week’s 4-0 Fire win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“He was waiting for his opportunity,” said Paunović, “and in the last month, actually, he had an opportunity to play, he had a game and in the last game he scored a goal against Vancouver. Today he was fantastic. I think he scored the goal, but it doesn’t matter. If he scored the goal, the goal is for the team and that is what is important.”
After months of substitute appearances, taking the opportunity to step up was important for Alvarez.
“Obviously,” said Alvarez, “when you have limited minutes you want to come in and show that you can still help the team. I am glad that I am doing that.”
As a long-serving veteran player in MLS, Alvarez knows that the team is key and that opportunities will continue to come.
“It is a long season," he said, "but at the end of the day we just have to make sure that we stick together, have a good mindset, and win as many games as we can.”