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Calistri, Fernandez Impress in Roughnecks’ Opener

The Fire’s young bucks show promising signs on the pitch

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Chicago Fire affiliate Tulsa Roughnecks FC opened their season with an assertive 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs Saturday.

This is Tulsa’s first season as Chicago’s USL affiliate, and the Roughnecks are off to a hot start under new head coach David Vaudreuil.

Vaudreuil, who most recently managed New England Revolution’s reserve side, took full advantage of Fire loanees Joey Calistri and Collin Fernandez in the club’s opening match of the season. Both players earned spots in Saturday’s starting lineup, and neither disappointed with their play on the field.

Calistri played 75 minutes of the game, produced two shots on goal and assisted on the game-winning goal in the 32nd minute. The former Northwestern Wildcat picked off a lazy attempt to distribute the ball from Switchbacks’ keeper Justin Luthy, charged into the box and neatly squared it for a tap-in from Ian Svantesson. He may never record an easier assist— it just goes to show hard work pays off.

The impressive work-rate of Chicago’s homegrown player was seen throughout this game, and should be an encouraging sign for Fire fans with the team’s focus on up-field pressing. Calistri may be one for the future, but if he keeps this up, Veljko Puanovic may be bringing him back to the first team sooner than expected.

Fernandez, another Fire homegrown player, also impressed on the pitch against Colorado Springs. The academy product connected on 45 of his 53 attempted passes in Saturday’s match, and made his box-to-box presence felt. This starlet, though, is much less likely to be seeing time with the first team this season, or the foreseeable future.

However, it remains crucial to Fernandez’s development that he earns a lot of minutes with Tulsa. Starting week-in and week-out can only be beneficial for him. And who knows, maybe it will earn him a spot in the center of Toyota Park.

The Roughnecks will return to action on April, 1 when they welcome Houston Dynamo affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC to ONEOK Field in Tulsa.