Victor Pineda scored for the U18s

En Route


The last four months have been hectic for the Fire Academy. In July, they became the first MLS club to win a Development Academy National Championship. Weeks later, Fire signed their first Academy player to a professional contract, Victor Pineda.

Director of Player Development, U16 Academy Head Coach, and Fire Assistant Coach Larry Sunderland talked with via email about what the home grown signing meant, the future of the academy, and how they incorporate the same philosophy through the ranks.

Coach Sunderland in his own right has been very successful recently as a national finalist with his Chicago Fire Premier in 2009,  and a national title with his U16 Academy team in 2010. In 2009, he was given the title of Director of Player Development and put in charge of the Development Academy for the Fire.

The signing of Pineda was a major step for the Fire. Sunderland said, “For us, it is the beginning to what we hope will be a regular cycle of Academy players moving into first team roles. I think in the end, the success of our Academy program will be judged by the success of those players graduating to the first team.” Pineda was a crucial part of the National Championship U-16 team and played with the U18 U.S. National Team in Argentina over the summer.

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