Victor Pineda already seemed to be moving up the Chicago Fire depth chart. Then came his goal in last week's reserve match against Houston.
Pineda took on a defender 1-on-1, created some space for himself and curled a shot just inside the upper corner of the far post from nearly 30 yards for the Fire's only goal in a 2-1 loss.
It was a "wow" moment for the 19-year-old homegrown player from Bolingbrook.
"It was really exciting," the soft-spoken midfielder said. "I got a lot of support from all my teammates and it helped me early in the game to get more confidence."
The goal aside, Pineda is much improved from last year, showing well in training, reserve matches and with the U.S. Under-20 team.
"I feel a lot more comfortable now," he said. "I feel like I'm getting a lot more confidence from my teammates. They trust me and believe in me more. They always expect a lot from me in those games."
Man at work:
As happens so often, second-year defender Jalil Anibaba was one of the last players off the practice pitch following training Tuesday.
Anibaba, 23, has been working like a player who knows the pressure is on -- especially with former starter Dan Gargan right behind him on the depth chart.
"It's good, because he pushes me, day in and day out," Anibaba said. "Every aspect of the game, every aspect of the progression, he pushes me. He's been a great teammate to me and to the rest of the guys. I have a lot of respect for Dan, and I owe a lot of credit to him."
The effort has paid off lately for Anibaba with some improved play, including serving some good crosses into New York's penalty area Oct. 6 in a 2-0 win.
"You can always get better as a player. And Jalil, with his crossing, it's the same with any other player -- you come out here and try to get better from the functional parts of the game every day," head coach Frank Klopas said. "He works hard every day to get better. Credit to him and to all the players. Everyone's out here working and getting better. I think that's the mentality you've got to have."
Ready for the Revs:
It's been a difficult season for New England (7-17-8, 29 points), but Fire coach Frank Klopas promises his team isn't taking its next opponent lightly, even though the Fire has already clinched a playoff spot.
"It's a dangerous team, it's a good team, so we're not underestimating them just because they're far behind in the standings," Klopas said of ninth-place New England.
The Fire hasn't fared very well on artificial turf, like it will see Saturday night (6:30 p.m., NBC Nonstop) at Gillette Stadium.
"The fact that you're also playing on turf makes it more difficult," Klopas said. "It's not an easy place to play. It's a different field than the grass. The ball bounces different, the ball rolls different. It's a pretty direct style of play that they have because the field is a little bit more narrow."
Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo pronounced his injured calf "better" after some light training Tuesday, but he's unlikely to travel to New England. Klopas said he's targeting the Oct. 27 home match against D.C. United for Pardo's return, as long as there are no setbacks.
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