Last Tuesday the Chicago Fire U-15 team were crowned champions of the BellSport Tournament in Zakopane, Poland. The future for these teenagers is bright, but how many of them will actually don the Fire red in the future? It is well known that the Fire isn’t really great with handling potential talent coming up through the ranks. A recent example would Cam Lindley reportedly not wanting to play with the club.
What about those lucky few who rose up the ranks to make it to the first team? Let’s take take a look at them and where they are at right now.
Pineda was the Fire’s first homegrown player. He signed his first professional contract in 2010 and made his first debut against the New York Red Bulls four years later. He made a total of four appearances for the Fire before he was loaned to Indy Eleven. He later signed a permanent contract with Indy after the Fire released him. He later joined the Fort Lauderdale Strikers a season later. In 2017, he was reunited with Logan Pause as his manager when he signed with Orange County SC. As of this season he isn’t attached with any club, but he was seen training with the Fire again earlier this May.
Gulley signed a homegrown contract with the Fire in 2011. Other than a cameo appearance in an international friendly against Mexican club Chivas, he never made a league appearance for the club before being waived in 2014. His last club was the Mississippi Brilla for the 2015 season. Since then he has gotten into some legal trouble.
I miss hearing “HOLY SHIPP!” being blurted out on TV whenever he did something magical.
The third homegrown player for the Fire, I was very disappointed when the Fire traded him to the Montreal Impact for some MLS funny money. I genuinely believe that if he had stayed he could have become an important part of the squad. He’s currently with the Seattle Sounders.
Ritter signed a homegrown contract with the club back in 2014. His first start was against the L.A. Galaxy that ended in a 1-1 draw. He went on to have 17 appearances for the club. Shortly after the end of 2015 season the Fire declined to extend his contract.
Fernandez was the fifth homegrown player for the Fire. During his time with the Fire he was loaned to Louisville FC, St. Louis FC and the Tulsa Roughnecks. The Fire didn’t sign him on for the 2018 season so he joined Phoenix Rising FC, where he plays alongside Didier Drogba.
Fun fact: his initials are CF and he was born in 1997...so #cf97.
Let’s skip the bio and just appreciate his three assists during the 4-1 rout of New England during the magical 2017 season.
Calistri is one of the Fire’s biggest “what ifs.” I believe if the club gave him a chance, he would be a great super-sub. During his tenure with the Fire and while he was out on loan with Tulsa, he netted in 10 goals. That’s 10 more than than Big Dave Arshakyan.
After being released by the Fire last year, Calistri has joined St. Louis FC, where he scored five goals in 31 appearances.
Conner signed with the Fire in 2015 and since then has shown moments of brilliance from time to time. He can be quite a versatile player, as shown when Pauno threw him out in the back as a right-back last season when Michael Harrington was relegated to clean the parking lots of Toyota Park. During Conner’s tenure with the Fire, he has so far had 32 appearances with a hand in two goals. He’s also been farmed out to St. Louis FC for a handful of games last year.
Adnan wrote a fantastic blurb on Mihailovic, so check that out while appreciating this beauty of a goal from him.
Sadly, not much can be said about Lillard. This season, he has only had eight appearances and most of them he did pretty OK. His best showing this year was against the Montreal Impact, where he had a solid performance out in the back. Lillard had some injuries this year preventing him from reaching his full potential but I feel if he gets more chances, he can shine really bright out in the back.