Let’s face it, 2020 hasn’t been the best year for most of us. But, to be fair, most of us aren’t Mauricio Pineda.
Let’s take a quick look back at Pineda’s first half-year with Chicago Fire FC:
- After wrapping up a stellar career at the University of North Carolina, Pineda signs a Homegrown Contract with the Fire.
- Pineda starts both matches for the Fire prior to the coronavirus shutdown. He goes all 90 minutes against the Sounders to open the season, then follows it up with another full-match performance against the New England Revolution, in which he starts at defensive midfielder, then slides back to central defender for the final 30 minutes after Gastón Giménez entered the match.
- Pineda shelters-in-place like a beast, probably.
- Pineda scores a goal from the center circle in a training match at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.
You saw Mauricio Pineda score the winner today against— Patrick McCraney (@patrickmccraney) July 15, 2020
Seattle. And you probably saw his monster volley in the tuneup match against Minnesota.
But have you seen this? Pineda scored from *midfield* in a training match a couple weeks ago. #cffc #cf97 #pinedahypetrain pic.twitter.com/nEhiNDOUeC
- In response to a question from Hot Time in Old Town, Raphael Wicky singles out Pineda as the most impressive player in training since the team restarted.
- A few days later, Pineda scores a volley in a tune-up game against Minnesota United that was so explosive, it would have been a Puskas contender if it had been an official match.
Hi we think you're gonna like watching Mauricio Pineda play. pic.twitter.com/O82VwRQzR4— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) July 9, 2020
- On Tuesday, after several key defensive plays, Pineda scored an 84th minute winner for the Fire in another 90 minute performance against Seattle to open the MLS is Back Tournament, giving the Fire the lead in Group B, and earning himself Man of the Match honors in just his third pro game. He also had the assist on Robert Berić’s opening goal, too.
Heading into the season, Wicky said he “didn’t know much” about his budding star:
“I obviously saw some video clips, but I knew he was a player that came up through the academy and then left for college,” Wicky said. “Then as soon as we started, I saw the tension; I saw the talent he has, and I saw the work ethic he puts on the field. He has I think surprised a lot of people in the preseason. We are very happy about that. He came back the same way after the pandemic, so he’s doing the same thing as before. We are very happy to have him in our team. That gives us a big option. Obviously now he starts scoring goals which is helpful as well. He just needs to keep working and keep improving. There is a good future in front of him, but the most important thing is to keep (the) right mentality.”
For his part, Pineda isn’t buying in to his own hype.
“I guess I haven’t really reflected too much,” Pineda said after Tuesday’s match. “I think right now all my energy is going towards this team. I’m just really happy that we got the three points. I think everything has been directed towards this game, all the hard work that we have had in the past three to four months, so I’m just putting all my energy on that and I’m glad we got the result and I’m happy with that and I’m ready to move on to the next game.”
We’ll have to wait until Sunday night at 7 p.m. CT (FS1, TUDN, TUDN 1200AM) to see what Pineda has in store for the San Jose Earthquakes. With a win, the Fire will guarantee a spot in the knockout rounds.