BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire midfielder Victor Pineda's U-20 World Cup dreams began a few years ago, and he's determined to see them through, even though he's hit a few bumps in the road.
Pineda was invited to the US Under-20 national team camp last week after recovering from a torn meniscus that kept him out of World Cup qualifying, and he saw immediately that he's back in the mix.
“I think I had a pretty good performance even with the injury,” Pineda told MLSsoccer.com. “I was kind of surprised, Tab [Ramos], from the first day had me with the starting team. It was great, it shows that he has a lot of confidence in me.”
The two-a-day training sessions and the two games in five days were a little bit more than the Fire Homegrown player is used to, and his knee and ankle began to have minor problems. But Pineda thinks the camp was exactly what he needed, and he thinks his performance put him in the mix for a spot in the 35-man camp that will take place at the end of the month.
After playing in the Toulon Tournament in France beginning at the end of this month, the 35-man roster will be pared down to 23 players, who will head to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey in June.
“I feel pretty confident,” said Pineda, who scored in an inter-squad scrimmage and a 6-2 win over Cal FC. “We still have the tournament in France, and it all depends on my performance there. Like I said, it's tough because every player there has a good chance of making it. I've just got to take advantage that Tab had me in the starting lineup.”
But first things first. He knows he has a process to finish with the U-20s. His confidence has grown steadily through his time on the youth national team, and he thinks playing in the World Cup could give his development a huge boost.
“I think I owe it to the team and to Tab, because last year, my experience and my confidence was from those trips with the 20's,” Pineda said. “I had like four camps, two trips to South America and Europe.
"That had a lot to do with my development last year. I thought last year was really important for me. My attitude, I kind of owe it to the coaching staff there. Obviously for me, it'd be awesome to be in a World Cup. It's every soccer player's dream.”