Curt Herron

Fire finds Pineda on the home front


A year ago, Victor Pineda was a talented high school junior with national level experience who was competing on the varsity soccer team at Plainfield East. Last week, he signed a professional contract and wore a Chicago Fire jersey the next day when his new team defeated New England at Toyota Park. Last Tuesday's signing marked a special day for Pineda and the Fire organization as the 17-year old from Bolingbrook officially joined the professional ranks.

His move to coach Carlos de los Cobos' first team is significant since he is the Fire's first home-grown player to earn a roster spot under recent rules changes.

"I'm really excited about this and now I know that I need to start working even harder," Pineda said. "I was lucky to be in this position, but I kept working hard and didn't want to change as a person and just keep being myself.

"This is really rewarding after all the hard work that I've put in, especially these past three years with the Academy and in residency with the national team. I've put in a lot of sacrifice in order to play soccer every day."My family is really excited about this and sometimes I think they're even more excited than me, especially my parents. But they deserve this since they've always supported me and been through a lot with me, so I'm really happy for them."

Under Major League Soccer's Home-Grown Player Initiative, implemented in 2007, he can take up one of the two additional roster spots for such players.They don't count against the 24-man roster for the first team. As per the policy of the Fire and the MLS, no terms of Pineda's signing were made available.Although the Fire has a long history of playing top Chicago talent on developmental teams, but under the old rules, many of those players ended up elsewhere.

The 5-foot-11, 140-pound midfielder, figured to be on the fast track toward being able to compete at the professional level following an impressive amateur career.He took part in U.S. Soccer's U-17 residency program in Florida in 2008 and 2009 and competed with the U-18 national team this summer in South America.A five-year veteran of the Fire's development system, he capped his time there by helping the U-16 team win the U.S. Soccer Development Academy national title in July.Pineda, who was recognized as a Parade All-American this summer, was a three-year member of the Academy and played with the Fire Juniors for two years before that. "After playing with the Fire Juniors and the Fire Academy, the love for the badge started growing," Pineda said. "So it means so much more now to be able to play for the team that I grew up seeing.

"Being involved with the national team has helped me look at the highest level at my age and I think I've proved that I can play at that level and even at a higher level. But I have to keep working hard to prove that I should be here now."I thought I might be nervous being here since everyone is so much older than me but I feel really comfortable around these guys, who are trying to help me out. Earning my spot on the first team is going to be the biggest challenge of my life."

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