BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Victor Pineda couldn’t hold back his smile. The 17-year-old midfielder made history Tuesday when he became the Chicago Fire’s first-ever homegrown signing.
And though the U.S. U-18 national-teamer remains a little bit timid around his new teammates, he wasn’t afraid to let his excitement shine through after Tuesday’s training session, flashing a huge grin several times during a post-practice interview.
“I’m really excited,” Pineda told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m glad all [my hard work] paid off. Now I have to start working even harder to maintain at this level and hopefully get a chance to play with the Fire in Toyota Park.”
Pineda, who captained the Fire U-16s to a national championship in July, began training with Chicago’s first team a week-and-a-half ago, ultimately impressing the staff enough to earn his first professional contract.
“He’s a talented player, but he needs to work hard,” Fire technical director Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a very technical, smart player who’s good with the ball. He’s fast, but now the speed of play and everything is different—but that’s why you bring him in.”
Pineda, who will graduate from Plainfield East High School in January, said that veteran forward Brian McBride has been a big help in his transition to the first team.
“Every day he’s trying to teach me something new,” Pineda said of McBride. “I pay a lot of attention to what he tells me, and I try to work on that—and that’s been helping me little by little.”
While he’s progressing, Pineda realizes that he still has a lot of work to do before he can make his professional debut.
“I don’t think I’m close enough yet,” he said. “I still have to work hard and just try to play better every day I come out. I think I have to just get better with the ball and just get quicker.”
Pineda will be available for selection beginning Wednesday night, when the Fire take on the New England Revolution at Toyota Park.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.