The Chicago Fire Soccer Club signed forward Joey Calistri and midfielder Drew Conner as Homegrown Players on Thursday. The former Fire Academy and PDL products become the seventh and eighth Homegrown Players in club history. Per MLS and club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We're very excited to have Drew and Joey with us,” said Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic. “I like their personality on the field and their overall character. They have a great desire to learn, improve and give their best. They share the same values and passion as our community and we can't wait to start working together. We welcome them to the Chicago Fire family.”
Calistri, 22, was a four-year starter for Northwestern, racking up conference and regional awards while finishing as the No. 2 leading goal-scorer in program history. The 5-foot-10 striker earned All-Big Ten First Team honors as a freshman and sophomore and was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team as a junior and senior. He was also the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2012 and landed on the NSCAA Great Lakes Region First Team in 2013. The Deerfield, Ill. native had 30 goals and 14 assists during his Wildcats career. A senior co-captain of the Wildcats, Calistri helped lead his squad to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four years.
“Coming up through the Fire youth system, the dream has always been to play for the first team,” Calistri said. “It’s an incredible honor to play for my hometown club. With the new technical staff in place, this is a fresh start not only for me but for the club, and I can’t wait to get going with this new team and see what the future holds.”
Calistri was also a standout for the Fire’s youth teams. He scored 19 goals in 29 games for the Fire Academy’s U-18’s from 2010 to 2012, and also had 11 goals and five assists in 22 games for Chicago’s U-23 PDL squad from 2012 to 2015, including a seven-goal output in his final season.
Conner, 21, was a four-year starter for Wisconsin and captained the Badgers as a senior. He earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors as a sophomore in 2013 and made the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2012. The Cary, Ill. native had six goals and 12 assists in his collegiate career. He also helped lead his squad to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2013.
“It's exciting to play for the club that invested so much in my development as a player over the years,” Conner said. “I remember going to Fire games ever since I was a kid, and it's awesome that this moment is here and I'm getting this opportunity. Hopefully I can be an inspiration to younger players in the Fire youth system.”
Like Calistri, Conner was exceptional for the Fire in the youth ranks. He had 12 goals in 95 games between the U-16 and U-18 levels from 2008 to 2012. Conner also had three goals and one assist in 17 games for Chicago’s U-23 PDL squad from 2012 to 2015.
“The development of players through our academy is a central part of our vision for building a championship club,” said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez. “These two young men are examples of what a young player can become, and we hope that they now continue to grow as professionals with the Fire. Joey and Drew have the chance to further develop into important contributors.”