With Chicago Fire training camp opening in 16 days in Ave Maria, Fla, December’s Open Tryout winner Fabrizio Pittaluga will perhaps look to Fire defender Pari Pantazopoulos for inspiration.
Much like the Fire left back, the Peruvian-born, Miami-based Pittaluga advanced through a field of 160 players from 10 different countries last month to be named the club’s Open Tryout winner. Like Pantazopoulos in 2011, the 22-year-old central midfielder has earned a spot at the team’s first phase of preseason training camp, set for January 20-February 3 in Ave Maria, Fla.
“I was really excited when I got the call,” said Pittaluga Tuesday. “I actually missed it the first time but when I realized who it was I called them back. It’s a very surreal feeling and I’m really looking forward to the first day.”
Realizing the odds of getting a training camp invite out of such a large field are quite slim, Pittaluga took the whole process in stride.
“I flew in so I made sure to get good sleep the night before. I got there early and I was nervous but they gave us some time to warm up. I didn’t want to overdo it so I tried to think of it like I was playing with friends. Just put a lot of effort in and play smart. The biggest difference for me was playing in the cold. I’m not used to it in Miami and I could definitely feel it in my lungs.”
“I played one game and then they actually asked me to play again right after. That night I took an ice bath in the hotel to try to make sure I was extra fresh for the second day. The second day the level was obviously a lot higher – it was a really intense game but I came out of the whole experience feeling pretty good.”
Born in Lima, Peru, Pittaluga emigrated to the United States with his family in 1991 when his father took a job in the American airline industry. A holder of American, Peruvian and Italian passports, Pittaluga has taken advantage of training and playing in each country.
In 2007, Pittaluga spent time training with Serie A side Cagliari’s Primavera squad, an accomplishment he considers equal to the training camp invite. He returned stateside, and joined up with Miami FC Kendall for the 2007-08 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, playing locally in Miami before joining up with Florida International University for their 2010 spring season.
Pittaluga forewent playing for the Golden Panthers, instead electing for training stints with Peruvian clubs Sport Boys Association in summer 2010 before an extended stay with Universidad Cesarvallejo through early 2011.
Since returning stateside last February, Pittaluga has played with Red Force Miami, a competitive men’s team in the south Florida area. He credits his play with the club and his own training regiment as aiding in his preparation for December’s tryout.
“I train all the time, everyday. I run, swim, always play with the ball and always take part in a lot of games. I’m a midfielder that feels comfortable playing in either an attacking or holding role. I think my best attributes are my work ethic, my vision of the field and my first touch on the ball.”
Pittaluga will now hope to follow in the footsteps of Pantazopoulos (pictured right), who advanced through three stages of preseason to finally sign a first team contract with the Fire last April. The Greek-born, Mt. Prospect, IL-product made his competitive debut for the Fire in a 1-0 victory over the Rochester Rhinos last June, en route to the club’s MLS-record sixth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final appearance.
He also took the field in both international friendlies in 2011, playing against Manchester United and Chivas de Guadalajara.
“You see what Pari accomplished and it gives you that extra motivation that it is possible to make the team. It’s been my dream forever, especially to do it here in the U.S. -- not having to leave what I’m used to and where I’ve grown up. It’s amazing and I’m looking forward to the first day of camp.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.