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updated: 2/16/2012 9:16 PM

Fire's Klopas likes what he sees in Pineda

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  • Chicago Fire midfielder Victor Pineda has impressed coach Frank Klopas with his improvement so far in preseason training.

      Chicago Fire midfielder Victor Pineda has impressed coach Frank Klopas with his improvement so far in preseason training.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas said Thursday he is impressed with the improvement homegrown player Victor Pineda has shown so far in preseason training.

"Victor is coming along," Klopas said via teleconference from the team's Ventura, Calif., training camp. "I see a big difference from Victor from a year ago to now."

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Klopas described Pineda, an 18-year-old from Bolingbrook, as being stronger, more confident and seeing the game quicker. "He will get opportunities this season to play," Klopas said.

The Fire's other homegrown player -- Mississippi native Kellen Gulley, 17 -- was just signed late last season.

"With Gulley it's taking a little bit longer," Klopas said.

Olympians:

As expected, Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson will head to the U-23 men's national-team training camp in Frisco, Texas, Feb. 19-29.

"We knew this going into this season that Sean had a very good possibility of being called in with the Olympic team and also with the full team," Klopas said, expressing confidence in backup Jay Nolly.

"It's great to have him here, but at least he's in an environment where he's training at a high level."

Also going to Frisco is Naperville native Michael Stephens, a Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.

Group play in the Olympic qualifying tournament begins March 22 in Nashville, Tenn., for this summer's London Olympics. The Fire season opener is March 17 at expansion Montreal, with the home opener March 24 against Philadelphia.

Also, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa will rejoin the Guatemala national team for a pair of friendlies Feb. 22 and Feb. 29 to prepare for World Cup qualifying, which begins in June.

Forward Orr Barouch has been called into the Israel U-21 national team's friendly Feb. 29 vs. Ukraine.

•Follow Orrin's soccer reports via Twitter @orrinsoccer.

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