CHICAGO – It was just a year ago on Thursday that he was making history in the net for Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field.
Gabriel Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to start a game in Major League Soccer history on August 4, 2021 against New York City FC. Then a 17-year-old, he got the clean sheet in his opening match, and the Addison native was off and running.
One year later, now 18 years old, Slonina now finds himself rising to the top of the sport.
The No. 1 goalkeeper for the Fire will be headed to Chelsea FC after he was officially transferred by the club earlier this week for a record fee. Slonina will get his chance to show his talent in the English Premier League, which features some of the best soccer in the world.
What a year it has been for the Chicago-area native, who has gone from getting adjusted to professional soccer to now reaching the top of it in 365 days.
“It’s been a journey for sure, and I’m super excited that I feel like I can use it on my platforms and everything to show and inspire people that, you know, a lot can change in a year if you dedicate your whole life to being successful and trying to better yourself every day,’ said Slonina. “Yeah, it’s been a hectic year but that’s the sport I play, that’s the life I want to live and I’m super grateful and super honored that what’s happened has happened.
“Hopefully we can keep on going in the right direction.”
Slonina will try to do that when the Fire visits Charlotte FC at 6 PM, which you can watch on WGN-TV, Channel 9. He’ll remain with the club for the rest of the MLS season before joining Chelsea in 2023, hoping to get the team into the postseason for the first time since 2017.
That will continue the remarkable rise for Slonina, who has grown a lot over the last year on and off the pitch.
“As a person, I’ve matured a lot. I’ve become a starter now so you have to do things differently and take care of your body in ways that you weren’t as a starter because you obviously want to be match fit on the day of the game,” said Slonina. “I think as a person, I grew up to be more mature and obviously deal with the struggles in my career because a career is going to be going up and down and everything and I think it’s all about how you can bounce back from those mistakes and use it to better yourself.
“As a player, you know, it’s a lot of experience that I’ve gained on the field. Its different training in training and games are completely different. You can train as much as you want but having that game experience I think is most important. So as a player, I gained a lot of experience to manage games and what position to put myself to make a good save and where I need to be and how to read players.”
That growth will continue as his professional soccer career continues at the highest level.