On time in injury recovery, Pineda still hopes to be part of U.S. U-20 squad in 2013

Fire Homegrown shooting for first team debut, U-20 roster spot

Upon returning to Toyota Park for season-opening physicals last Friday, Fire midfielder Victor Pineda was in much higher spirits compared to the last time I spoke with him.

Back in November, the club’s first-ever Homegrown player was dealt the devastating blow of a 3-5 month injury layoff following surgery to repair his torn left meniscus.

The recovery timetable shelved a potential training stint with alliance partners Atletico Madrid as well as his participation with the U.S. U-20’s in CONCACAF qualification for this summer’s World Championships.

Beyond that, with Pineda putting in a number of strong performances in 2012 Reserve League matches as well as a September friendly vs. Santos Laguna, a full preseason was expected to catapult the 20-year-old midfielder towards his first team debut in 2013.

“I can’t lie and say the injury wasn’t disappointing for me,” Pineda told Chicago-Fire.com. “I think the hardest part [in recovery] was the first month where it hurts a lot and you’re not really doing much. I got past that and now the therapy has been good and gets more challenging.”

Three months on from surgery, Pineda isn't present for the team’s first leg of preseason in Ave Maria, Fla, instead he continues his re-hab work at the Athletico facilities in Chicago but both he and head coach Frank Klopas confirmed Friday they hope he’ll begin running in the next two to three weeks.

That would put the club’s original Homegrown player still within the injury timetable and perhaps get him back into full training before preseason closes at the end of February.

Prior to the injury, the Bolingbrook, Ill. product was a regular in Tab Ramos’ U.S. U-20 pool and while Pineda will continue to eye his first-team debut later this season, a more immediate goal is to still be part of the U.S. team should they qualify for June’s World Youth Championships in Turkey.

“It’s definitely part of the goal in getting back,” he said. “I wish nothing but the best for them and I really do hope they make it. After the recovery, I want to be able to join them at the World Cup, and try to be at the highest level I can.”

After coming very close to making his competitive debut for the first team last season, Pineda will strive for his chance in 2013.

"I've had the chance to play in Toyota Park in friendlies against Chivas and Santos Laguna. The opportunity to play there in an MLS game is the other part of that goal in getting back."