Fire

Arturo Alvarez takes advantage of first start since July

Arturo Alvarez was a bright spot on a bad Fire team last year, but playing time has been hard to come by in 2017.

Alvarez led the 2016 Fire with nine assists and was tied for third on the team with five goals. Once the team beefed up the midfield and added Nemanja Nikolic at striker, moving Michael de Leeuw into more of a midfield role, in the offseason Alvarez has found himself on the bench for most games this season.

He is 15th on the team with 675 minutes played, but with a number of regulars out, the 32-year-old made his eighth start of 2017 in Saturday’s 3-0 win against D.C. Alvarez delivered an assist on the Fire’s second goal, setting up Brandon Vincent’s diving header with a left-footed cross from the right wing.

“You always want to go out there and do a good job and try to help out the team in any way possible,” Alvarez said. “I think I did that tonight.”

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Coach Veljko Paunovic subbed out Alvarez in the 71st minute, the Fire’s first sub of the match, citing concerns over match fitness due to a lack of recent starts. This was Alvarez’s first start since July 22 and his fourth in 25 games since he started the first four games of the season.

Alvarez now has three goals and two assists on the season.

“He has had a fantastic attitude during the whole year,” Paunovic said of Alvarez. “I think he was always ready and waiting for the opportunity to come. It happened today and he was ready. How many times I think I’ve said that, everyone in our team understands that very well and that’s the strength of our locker room.”