Having completed his high school studies in December, Mauricio Pineda was looking at a relatively quiet first couple months of 2016.
But his calendar filled up quickly with a call not long before the start of Chicago Fire preseason training, when the Chicago Fire Academy standout and U.S. youth international was invited to join first team training both in Chicago and in Tampa.
“It was actually out of nowhere,” the Bolingbrook native said of his addition to training camp. “But it’s been really good. I’ve been training with the Academy and this is a way different level and a big jump, but it’s what I play for.”
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A strong and sure-footed defender, Pineda enjoyed a successful campaign in 2015, during which he helped the Chicago Fire Academy to a USSDA U-18 national championship and earned a pair of call-ups to the U.S. U-18 national team. Pineda made the decision to graduate high school early around the start of his senior year, and approximately two months later announced his verbal commitment to the University of North Carolina.
Pineda, whose older brother, Victor, was the first-ever Chicago Fire Homegrown signing in 2010, has remained calm and composed during his extended first team training stint.
“He’s doing great, he’s a fantastic kid,” head coach Veljko Paunovic said Monday from Tampa. “We invited him last week to start the preseason with us and were really impressed at his maturity as a person and also as a soccer player. He’s humble but at the same time a very intelligent player and he’s doing everything we’re asking to help him improve his game.”
Likewise, Pineda had a favorable impression of his first training sessions under Pauno and his staff.
“Honestly, it’s really exciting,” Pineda said. “Just overall, everything [Pauno] does, the atmosphere here with the Fire, it’s a lot different in a positive way. I’m looking forward to working with him more.”