Mauricio Pineda has yet to ink a professional contract but, according to MLSsoccer.com's Will Parchman, already rates favorably among the best young defenders within the MLS landscape.
Pineda, a highly regarded product of the Chicago Fire Academy and youth system, is currently wrapping up his freshman year at the University of North Carolina. Pineda shined in his rookie season with the Tar Heels, playing in all 21 matches with 16 starts and earning ACC All-Freshman Team recognition.
Parchman compiled a list of the 10 most outstanding and promising U-20 defenders in MLS and slotted Pineda at No. 9 overall, despite his lack of professional experience. Below is Parchman's full take on the Bolingbrook, Ill. native and U.S. youth international, who has trained extensively with the Chicago Fire first team in recent seasons:
There’s exactly one current college player on this list, and there’s a reason it’s Mauricio Pineda. The Chicago Fire academy product went to North Carolina in 2016 with fellow Fire prospect Cam Lindley, and as a freshman Pineda was a vital cog in the Tar Heels’ run to the College Cup (the soccer version of the Final Four). Pineda’s versatile, and he eventually settled as a No. 6 in coach Carlos Somoano’s 3-5-2. But as far as I’m concerned he projects as either a ball-playing center back or a defensive fullback at the next level. My top eight have all signed professional deals already. By my reckoning, Pineda is the best MLS academy-connected defender yet to do so.
As noted by Parchman, Pineda and midfielder Cameron Lindley made for a dynamic freshman duo in Chapel Hill, with Lindley garnering ACC Freshman of the Year honors and a spot on the first-team All-ACC squad.