The Chicago Fire's homegrown players made themselves at home for the first time Sunday at Toyota Park.
Giving fans a glimpse of the team's future, midfielder Harry Shipp, signed in the off-season out of Notre Dame, provided the assist on the team's only goal in a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls.
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The Fire's first homegrown player, 21-year-old Victor Pineda of Bolingbrook, made his first appearance with the first team in his fourth season since signing.
"I think they did well," said Frank Yallop, Fire coach and director of soccer. "It's never easy for these young guys to come in and play on such a big stage. I think both Harry and Benji (Joya, a 20-year-old midfielder) last week came in and did well and played well today again.
"Victor's first taste was today. … It's always good to give those guys a chance to blossom and play. With our injury situation right now it's a chance for a lot of guys to get some minutes and play and see how they get on. I was pleased with all three of them."
With veterans Gonzalo Segares, Chris Rolfe and Dilly Duka nursing injuries and Patrick Nyarko out because of last week's red card, Shipp, Joya and Greg Cochrane earned starts. Cochrane, acquired via trade just weeks ago, is the oldest of the group at 23.
"It's only my second game playing professionally," said Shipp, a Lake Forest native. "I've played less than 180 minutes total. So it's still a little fast, still getting ahold of things."
"It was great," Pineda said of coming into the game for Joya in the 71st minute. "I was glad to finally be out there. It's something I've been working for, for a while now. It was exciting just to go into a game that was 1-1 and get that into your head that you could score the goal to help the team win."
While the MLS Players Union salary numbers aren't due out for a couple of months, none are believed to have high salaries, an important factor for a team that, according to technical director Brian Bliss, is in compliance with the league's salary cap, but not by much.
The Fire (0-1-2, 2 points) might have to move some of its veterans if it wants to bring in a designated player at midseason, meaning plenty more playing time to come for the youngsters.
That's not including 19-year-old Grant Ward, acquired via loan Saturday from Tottenham but who might be a couple of months from his Toyota Park debut due to recent foot surgery.
The Fire got off on the right foot in the sixth minute Sunday, captain Jeff Larentowicz heading in Shipp's corner kick for a 1-0 Fire lead.
"It felt pretty good," Shipp said of the assist. "I think in the first half we wanted to get off to a good start, try to get up and to have it in the sixth minute, whatever it was, was definitely a good start to the game. We had a few chances to go up 2-0. Unfortunately, they pulled a goal back."
New York (0-1-2, 2 points) evened the match in the 21st minute, Dax McCarty finding the ball in a pack and putting it in the Fire net.
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