Photo courtesy of www.chicago-fire.com
The MLS homegrown player system isn’t something that makes a lot of news throughout a given season, but it is one that has gotten the attention of Chicago Fire fans, most recently with the rise of Victor Pineda, the Fire’s first homegrown player signing in team history. Through the years Victor Pineda has worked his way up the ranks of the Chicago Fire Academy, while still splitting time training with U.S. Youth camps. In 2010 he became the Fire’s first homegrown signing in clubs history, but here is a closer look at Victor’s rise to Fire.
Pineda began his career with the Chicago Fire in 2008 as a part of the U16 academy squad and has worked his way up through the system, eventually earning a contract with the club. The Fire weren’t the only ones to notice Pineda’s talent and in 2008 he left the Fire Academy and began training with the U.S. U17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fl., a full-time soccer development program where players train daily with US U17 Men’s National Team coaches and attend classes at St. Stephens Episcopal School. Pineda trained with the US U17 camp in Fall of ‘08, and trained with some notable MLS regulars such as Juan Agudelo of Chivas USA, Eriq Zavaleta of Seattle Sounders, and Perry Kitchen of DC United.
While only making appearances in 2 Chicago Fire Academy U-17 matches before departing for the residency program, Pineda returned in 2009 and saw regular field time at the academy, appearing in 28 matches and leading the U16s with 8 goals and winning a USSFDA National Championship in Carson, California while recording 2,160 minutes played throughout the season. Pineda’s 2009-2010 campaign with CFA was the breakout performance that lead up to signing with the first team in 2010.
Pineda also continued training with the U.S. Men’s team, starting all 4 games in which he appeared in 2010 for the US U18s, scoring his first international goal in his debut in a 2-1 defeat against Bolivia. He is also currently part of the U.S. Men’s U20 National Team pool. Although his injury kept him out of the US camp as they qualified for the U20 FIFA World Cup in Turkey set to take place this summer, Pineda said in a recent interview with Fire staff that he will be working to compete for a spot to take part in the summer championship, starting with US U20 camp set to start in early April.
Although a knee injury suffered in training late last season left Pineda using the offseason to recover from surgery to repair his torn left meniscus, he has now begun training regularly with the Fire, and saw 20 minutes of playing time in Friday morning’s friendly against Minnesota United FC at the Toyota Park training field, coming on in the 71st minute for midfielder Jeff Larentowitz.
Despite the slow process to full recovery, Pineda seems to be taking his return from injury in stride, saying he is excited just to be back training with the team, and remaining confident in his ability and working to get back to 100% physically and shake the soreness he’s been feeling for the last few weeks. He recently tweeted via his account @VictorPineda93 "patience is what it takes", assuming he was referring to readiness to get back on the field and potentially making his official MLS debut this season.
Even at age 20, a young Victor Pineda is showing some veteran resolve knowing that his eagerness to get back to the Fire’s 18-man match day roster is not to be rushed. With the Fire’s recent struggle in form, the sight of Pineda on the sideline for the team would undoubtedly be a welcome change for the Fire faithful.