Like the rest of his teammates, Joey Calistri departed Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday disappointed not to have secured a road result against one of Major League Soccer’s most impressive teams in 2016.
With the match entering its final stages and the host Rapids holding a 1-0 lead, Chicago orchestrated perhaps its most fluid offensive action of the match in the 81st minute. The sequence culminated with Rodrigo Ramos dropping his header onto the feet of Calistri, who calmly eluded 6-foot-7 defender Axel Sjoberg before slotting a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
"There was a really good ball played back post," Calistri said. "Rodrigo [Ramos] made a great run to get there. I saw him about to head it back so I tried to get in position to score. He played a good header back and I took a touch first, then was able to put it home left foot and it was a great feeling."
The elation provided by the Homegrown product’s first professional goal was all-too-short-lived, however, as former Fire standout Marco Pappa broke the 1-1 tie when his deflected shot found goal to restore a Rapids lead in the 89th minute.
"Sometimes soccer doesn’t go the way that you’d like and there are unlucky bounces," Calistri said. "It's part of the game, so you kind of have to go with it, but overall I think everybody put in a lot of effort today. I was proud to be on the field with everybody today."
A halftime substitute on Saturday, Calistri's first goal came in the 10th appearance of his rookie campaign, consistently ranking as one of Veljko Paunovic’s preferred choices to provide a high work rate and a nose for goal off the bench. The Deerfield, Ill. native first flashed his goal-scoring flair in Chicago’s preseason match vs. Minnesota United FC back in February, netting a first-half brace in the Fire’s 4-0 victory.
As he has on previous occasions this season, Paunovic reiterated his confidence in Calistri while stressing that the 22-year-old is not yet a finished product.
"He’s doing well," Paunovic said. "Long way to go for him, but I’m very happy for him that he scored."
Calistri has been a consistent finisher at all levels, tallying 11 goals and five assists in 22 career games with the Chicago Fire PDL squad, netting 19 goals in 29 games for the club's Academy, and recording 30 goals and 14 assists in 76 appearances during his collegiate career at Northwestern.
It’s been a memorable week for Calistri, who on Thursday returned to the Evanston campus on graduation weekend to be recognized as Northwestern’s 2015-16 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, a testament to his overall academic and athletic excellence. Two days later, Calistri experienced the thrill of becoming the second Homegrown player in club history to register a first team goal for Chicago, despite the sour ending: