It's certainly true that 2014 has not been a kind year to supporters of the Chicago Fire - four wins in 24 league games, a humiliating pantsing in the US Open Cup semifinal, and a midseason transfer window filled to bursting with disappointment tell a tale all on their own. But there's an undercurrent of hope stirring, even in the midst of all this hammered-flat lassitude, and it comes not from the hustle and bustle of the transfer market, but from the quieter, slower, almost agricultural work of Larry Sunderland, John Dorn and the other folks in the Fire Academy.
Today, CF97 announced the signing of its third Homegrown Player in 2014, 17-year-old attacking midfielder Collin Fernandez from Downer's Grove. He follows Harrison Shipp and Chris Ritter in this year's crop. Fernandez will train with the club for the remainder of the year and be available for selection in 2015, so this is clearly a move for the future. Unlike Shipp, there's little question of Fernandez' bona fides as a Fire player - he's a true Academy product who's played with the Fire since 13 years old.
Fernandez' signing was long rumored, and comes just as the attacker returns from a fantastic showing with the USA U18 team at the Vaclav Jezek Invitational in the Czech Republic. Of particular note was Fernandez' goal and assist in a 3-2 USA win against the host Czechs.
The below highlight video is taken from a single USA U-15 game more than two and a half years ago, but it gives some idea of Fernandez' game. Playing from the left wing, Collin plays outside-in aggressively, showing great touch with both feet and an hard streak without the ball.