Victor Pineda returns to full training, hopes to still make U.S. U-20 roster

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Seeing Arne Friedrich return to training Tuesday was good but the sight of midfielder Victor Pineda taking part in full sessions for the first time this week since suffering a torn right meniscus last  November was special.

“I’m very excited to get back and be able to participate in full training and not just be off to the side,” he told this week.

His form in the MLS Reserve League gave Frank Klopas confidence and towards the end of last season the Original Fire Homegrown began cracking the gameday 18. He even made his first road trip with the squad in a 1-0 loss to New England last October.

Just days after the Fire’s playoff exit to Houston on Halloween, Pineda suffered a torn right meniscus in a postseason training session, a devastating setback for a player that seemed set to take the next step in his professional career in 2013.

While the team was away on preseason, Pineda was back in Chicago doing rehab work with Athletico. Over the last month or so, he’s progressed from running to doing ball work to playing as a neutral player in training to full sessions this week.

“Physically I’m just trying to get used to the training – I’ve been sore the last two or three weeks so I’m trying to get adjusted to that but overall I’m pretty excited.”

Asked if the pain was in his knee, Pineda said, “The way I’ve been training it doesn’t bother me at all, I think it’s just everything else, getting my strength and fitness back with the ball. I feel pretty strong right now but I’m just trying to improve on that.

On Thursday’s All-In Podcast, teammate and mentor Patrick Nyarko gave Pineda a big boost in his recovery. Speaking of how impressed the first team has been with the 20-year-old midfielder’s play, Nyarko said, “In no time, once he’s back to 100 percent, he should be in the team.”

Of course getting back to make his competitive debut for the first team this year was one goal but being part of the U.S. U-20 squad that recently qualified for the FIFA World Championships this June in Turkey was another goal.

Prior to his injury, Pineda was a constant in Tab Ramos’ side and though last month’s qualifying campaign may have made things a bit more challenging, Pineda is still striving to take part.

“I know there’s a camp at the end of the month so I’m trying to prepare for that. I’m trying to be sharp and work hard here in training so that’s going to help me be ready to compete in that camp and try to earn a spot again.”