Hope you’re ready to feel old!
The Chicago Fire announced today that they had signed Academy goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina. At 14 years old— yes, really— the Polish dual-national is the youngest Homegrown Player signing in MLS history.
While hailing Slonina as having “high potential,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez admitted that the club would normally not sign someone this young, but said that this move made sense for all involved.
“While we would always prefer not to sign players at such a young age, a convergence of factors made his signing at this particular moment the right course of action for everyone. We will be patient and deliberate in advancing Gabriel’s development while ensuring he retains some normalcy as a teenager.”
Slonina, who grew up in Addison, Illinois, has spent three seasons with the Chicago Fire Academy. He’s currently playing with the U17s and has made 54 appearances (with 52 starts) over the past three seasons. He’s also trained with the USYNT, most recently at Camp Cupcake this past January with the U15s.
Last December, Slonina’s agency suggested on their Instagram account that he was attracting interest from European clubs. Given his status as an EU citizen, his obvious talent, and his physical attributes— he’s 6ft 4in! he’s only 14!!— it’s not at all surprising that European clubs would be asking after him.
And in an interview with a Polish outlet last October, Slonina seemed to indicate that his goal was to play in Europe, and that he wasn’t interested in MLS.
English translation via Google Translate:
MF: What are your plans for the future?
GS: I want to play somewhere professionally in Europe.
MF: So you do not associate your future with MLS?
GS: I do not want to really play in the MLS, because I think that in Europe football is at a higher level.
If I had to guess, it seems like the Fire didn’t want to risk another HGP prospect heading overseas with no compensation. With all the buzz surrounding Slonina, the Fire could’ve found themselves in a similar place as FC Dallas after Weston McKennie ran off to the Bundesliga.
It’s unclear what happens next with Slonina. The easiest solution would be to let him keep playing for the Academy U17s and develop as a player. According to the league’s roster record, Slonina is currently on the Reserve roster. (So is Djordje Mihailovic, who has been getting regular first team minutes.) It’s unlikely that he’s going to be in the Gameday 18 for an MLS regular season game anytime soon, if ever. The club could loan him out to Indy 11 or Lansing Ignite, but... I mean, c’mon, the kid is 14. Sending a minor to go live in another state unsupervised seems like a bad idea.
Regardless: Slonina now has a chair at the adult’s table. It’ll be interesting to see what the next steps are— for the club and the player.