Victor Pineda

NYARKO: "I had no doubt Pineda would make U-20 roster"

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. --  Few Fire players have taken Victor Pineda under their wing the way that Patrick Nyarko has.

When the veteran attacker heard the news Friday that the club’s original Homegrown player had made the final U.S. U-20 roster for this month’s FIFA World Youth Championships, he wasn’t surprised at all.

“I had no doubt he was going to make it,” Nyarko told “He’s a kid that’s come far, and he’s just learned since the day he joined the first team.”

That day came back in August 2010 with the slight midfielder having just led the Fire U-16 Academy side to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Title.

Through his two years with the first team, Pineda was forced to bide his time behind the likes of some very quality players in midfield and in defense. Beginning last summer, he began to make his move towards the 18 and even made his first away trip with the first team last October.

His performances in training and reserve play at the end of 2012 made it likely he’d make his first team debut this season but a torn meniscus in post-season training put that as well as today’s selection to the U.S. U-20 World Cup team in doubt.

Though Pineda’s been made to wait for his first team chance, Nyarko says he’s made the most of his time.

“He’s been persistent and he’s not the rowdy type – he sits back, studies, learns and improves. The jump he’s made from when he’s started until now is not surprising.

Though he’s yet to make a competitive first team appearance, Nyarko expects it’ll happen at some point once he returns from the World Cup in Turkey this summer.

“The confidence he’s going to gain at the U-20 World Cup is going to give him an edge when he comes back and he’s going to help us a lot.

“The kid is ready to play and I hope he gets his chance.”

The U.S. U-20 team opens tournament play on June 21 vs. Spain before facing France three days later. They close out group play with a match against Nyarko’s home nation of Ghana.

Before leaving for the Toulon Tournament, Nyarko said he gave his teammate advice on how the team should approach the group.

“I told him that he should tell his boys to win the other two group games because they’re not going to win that game,” he joked.

“They might as well qualify before they play Ghana.”