Homegrown Pineda lifts Fire to victory
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bolingbrook native and homegrown player Mauricio Pineda scored in the 84th minute to give the Fire a 2-1 victory Tuesday against the Sounders in the MLS is Back tournament.
Wide-open at the back post, Pineda caught Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei offguard to score his first MLS goal. Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana had tallied in the 77th minute to tie it at 1.
Robert Beric’s goal put the Fire up after a scoreless first half. It was his second goal this season; his first came in a season-opening loss to the defending champion Sounders.
The match Tuesday was the tournament opener for the Fire, who were shifted to a new group after FC Dallas and Nashville SC had to withdraw because of positive COVID-19 tests. The tournament is being played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
“I think everyone was looking forward to this game. We were all really anxious to start playing games again,” Pineda said. “Everyone worked really hard today. We all really wanted a good result to start the tournament off and just for the league points.”
Said first-year Fire coach Raphael Wicky: “Those are three big points against the champions, and it counts for the league, which is very, very important for us. After two good games against Seattle and New
England, but the results didn’t go in our favor, I’m very happy with the three points. For the tournament, it’s always good to have a positive start, but it’s just a first step.”
The Sounders played to a 0-0 draw against the Earthquakes to open the tournament.
Seattle’s Jordan Morris started on the bench against the Fire but subbed in after a scoreless first half. He scored both goals when the Sounders opened the regular season with a 2-1 victory over the Fire in Seattle. Beric scored his first MLS goal in that game.
The Fire threatened in the 32nd minute when Frei grabbed Przemyslaw Frankowski’s header. Frei also deftly punched away a free kick in the 42nd minute.
But he couldn’t stop Beric, who maneuvered around Sounders defender Yeimar Gomez to score in the 52nd minute. Beric signed in the offseason after playing in France for five seasons.
Morris pulled off a well-placed cross to Bwana, who timed his run to beat Fire goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm and tie the score. Then Pineda tallied about seven minutes later.
“He surprised a lot of people in the preseason. He came back the same way after the pandemic,” Wicky said. “So he’s doing the same thing as before. That gives us a big option. Obviously, now he starts scoring goals, which is helpful, as well.’’
The Fire’s Mauricio Pineda, who scored his first MLS goal, battles the Sounders’ Jordan Morris.