Sometimes change is necessary for a young player to grow.
It may be too early to tell but so far that seems to be the case for original Fire Homegrown player Victor Pineda after new Fire head coach Frank Yallop singled out his impressive performance during the first week of preseason camp.
“It’s only four days,” Yallop told reporters on a conference call last Thursday. “I don’t want to jump the gun by saying who’s doing great but Victor has done well in the (small sided) games that we’ve had. He’s the one that stood out (among the young players).”
It’s a nice bit of praise for a player that has admitted frustration at not yet making his first-team debut after three and a half seasons on the roster.
“Personally I came in sharp and well prepared,” Pineda told Chicago-Fire.com. “I played well, I tried to keep it simple and [Frank] was probably impressed with the work ethic I’d been putting into every session and I’ve felt pretty sharp with the ball.”
Pineda has seemed close to making his first team debut in the past, making the gameday 18 in five games between 2011 and 2012, but a torn meniscus suffered in postseason training later that year threw him off track in 2013.
Instead of coming into preseason camp working to earn a greater role with the team last year, he spent the entire time back in Chicago rehabbing, with his main goal of returning for the U.S. U-20’s trip to the FIFA World Youth Championships in Turkey last summer.
A victim of circumstance, Pineda returned from the tournament to find the Fire working their way through a slow start to the 2013 campaign. With no margin for error, veteran players with more experience were the preference and the Bolingbrook, Ill., product wasn’t named to a gameday roster the entire season.
Frustrated with the way last season went, Pineda says he saw a new chance with the hiring of Yallop and former teammate C.J. Brown as his assistant in 2014.
“Since that first day I talked to Frank I knew I had to come in prepared and I took the offseason well. I got ready on my own and like I said I was just excited for this new opportunity. It’s a new start and at this point I think I deserve it. I’ve worked really hard in the past and it just hasn’t gone my way but I’m really excited for this year.”
“He’s a guy that’s been around for a few years now. He’s still very young but being around the team for that long has really developed him,” Nyarko told Chicago-Fire.com. “All the guys speak highly of him – they know what he’s capable of in training and it’s just unfortunate that he hasn’t gotten his chance yet.
“It’s been a great first week so far and I expect him to get better. I personally think he’s going to play a part in the team this year.”
Pineda had a strong first 30 minutes in the team’s opening preseason friendly vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday. With normal first teamers not featuring in the match, he even captained the side for the first 30 minutes in the 1-0 win.
He admits he still has a lot of time left in training camp to continue making his case but says his goals remain the same as they’ve always been going into the 2014 season.“
Try to get into that first game, try to earn a starting spot, keep that starting spot and do my best to represent the club I’ve spent half my life playing for.”