Chicago Fire goaltender Gabriel Slonina remains calm under pressure

The fire keeper Gabriel Slonina meditates every morning. He does this to block out potential distractions and make sure he’s present and focused so he can do his best athletically.

With all the chatter swirling around him and the pressure on his shoulders, it’s a good thing Slonina is on this diet.

Still 17, Slonina was named the Fire’s starting goalie after a strong finish last season. Since the end of the 2021 campaign, the Addison native has emerged as a face of the Fire, been called up to the US men’s national team for the World Cup qualifiers and has been linked with transfer rumors linking him to European heavyweights. Oh, he’s also eligible to play for the Polish national team and might have to decide quite quickly whether to sign up for them or the United States, a choice that would dictate his path in major international competitions.

Yet when asked about a timeline for moving to Europe and also when he would choose the United States or Poland, Slonina displayed the kind of self-assurance that made him one of the guardians of most coveted goal in the world.

“I think I can answer those two questions in one,” Slonina said. “I think right now the focus is on this pre-season and finishing the pre-season strong. I’m not the kind of player who looks too much into the future. I want to be here, present now because that’s obviously what’s most important. But we never know what the future holds, so I think I’m going to keep giving it my all every day in training, trying to ensuring that I help guys on and off the pitch to have the most successful season we can have for this club.

Such stability is one of the reasons why the Fire – and apparently clubs in Europe – think so highly of Slonina, who will wear the No.1 shirt this season, which is synonymous with the first-choice goalkeeper of ‘a club. This budding reputation, and the expectations that come with it, could hurt many young players, especially those adjusting to their hometown team.

This does not appear to be the case for Slonina. Clearly, he’s found ways to insulate himself from outside noise and stay focused on the next move ahead, not which European team will sign him for a deal.

“And just all the routines I’ve established to make sure I keep my body fit, healthy, and doing everything to the best of my abilities,” Slonina said. “So yeah, I think the routine you set for yourself is how you can stay in the moment and just keep working and giving it your all because that will keep you humble and it will keep your ego down. . . . . I’m not going to think I’m too big a player and I’m not going to think I’m too little a player.

“I’m going to have that perfect balance between working and giving it my all every day.”

REMARK: The Fire and WGN-TV announced Friday that the channel will air 29 of the team’s 34 games this season. Tyler Terens will serve as the primary play-by-play voice and Tony Meola will be the analyst. Arlo White should call a number of games this summer.

Shooters have been streaming on WGN since 2020.

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