ORLANDO – Since the pandemic began, there haven’t been many feel good stories on the field for sports teams. That’s not a surprise considering so few competitions have been going on.
But here in Chicago, the Major League Soccer team in town may have had one of the first this past week, when a local player made good with his pro team.
For Chicago Fire FC, it’s a wonderful thing to see.
Bolingbrook native Mauricio Pineda, who was playing in just his second MLS game, came up with the moment of the match against reigning champion Seattle on Tuesday. He got the game-winning goal for the Fire off a corner kick from Gaston Gimenez to give the team their first victory of 2020.
It was a great moment for Pineda, who saw his career come full circle at that moment.
The 22-year old was in the Chicago Fire Academy in his teens, helping the franchise to their first United States Soccer Development Academy National Championship in 2015. While receiving call-ups to the US Men’s National Team’s U-18 and U-19 squads, Pineda also had a successful career at North Carolina.
He played all four years for the Tar Heels and took the field in every match, then signed with the Fire as the 12th homegrown player in franchise history in January. His brother, Victor, was the first homegrown player in team history.
Then this story got better on Wednesday, when the Fire officially picked up the 2021 contract option for Pineda with the franchise.
It’s an extrodinary set of circumstances that makes the midfielder one of the best stories in this pandemic-era time of sports in Chicago. Yet Pineda isn’t very reflective as the Fire continue their tournament on Sunday against San Jose on 7 PM.
“I guess I haven’t really reflected too much. I think right now all my energy is going towards this team. I’m just really happy that we got the three points,” said Pineda on Tuesday after the match with the Sounders. “I think everything has been directed towards this game, all the hard work that we have had in the past three to four months, so I’m just putting all my energy on that and I’m glad we got the result and I’m happy with that and I’m ready to move on to the next game.”
While his story the past week has made soccer fans in Chicago quite happy in an unusual time.