The Chicago Fire announced Thursday that the team has signed midfielder Collin Fernandez as a Homegrown Player. Fernandez will not be added to the Fire’s first team roster until 2015. Per MLS and team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Collin is a talented player who has a bright future ahead of him,” said Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop in a statement. “It speaks highly of our player development system as Collin is our third Homegrown signing this year. He has already begun training with the first team and started to integrate himself into the locker room, which will help ease his transition when he’s added to our roster next season.”
Fernandez joins the first team after spending the past four years in the Fire’s Player Development system. A Fire Juniors youth product, the Downers Grove, Ill. native joined the first Under-14 Academy program at the age of thirteen and has played for the Academy on the U-14, U-16 and U-18 teams. Fernandez will be eligible for Academy matches this season.
“We’re very proud of Collin as he ascends the ranks of the Chicago Fire Academy to the first team, which are the aspirations of every player in the program,” said Fire Academy Director and Head Coach Larry Sunderland in a statement.
“He’s become a young professional in every sense of the word. He came in with the right mentality every single day and that’s what got him to where he is today. To sign three Homegrown players in one season is a testament to what we’re doing with the Academy players; it’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people and with great support from our ownership, we’ve been able to move these young men through to the first team.”
Fernandez was named the US Soccer Development Academy’s Central Conference U-16 Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season after scoring 16 goals in 25 matches.
“It’s always been my dream to be a professional soccer player and this is just the beginning,” said Fernandez. “I’ve played with the Fire since I was 13, so it’s a dream come true for me to sign with my hometown club.”
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Fernandez received his first international call-up for the United States in January 2011 when he was named to the roster for the U-14 Boy’s National Team trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. Fernandez spent the 2013 Spring Semester at the US U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. and was most recently part of the U-18 Men’s National Team roster for the 21st International Tournament of Václav Ježek in the Czech Republic, where he appeared in all three matches, scoring one goal and adding two assists as the U.S. were named tournament champions.
Fernandez joins midfielders Harry Shipp and Chris Ritter as the third player to sign a Homegrown contract with the Chicago Fire in 2014.