Fire goalie Gabriel Slonina keeping cool under pressure

Slonina, 17, meditates every morning to block out potential distractions, which is a good thing considering everything swirling around him.

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Gabriel Slonina is staying focused on the present, not speculation about his future.

Courtesy of the Fire

Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina meditates every morning. He does it to block out potential distractions and make sure he’s present and focused so he can perform his best athletically.

With all the chatter swirling around him and pressure on his shoulders, it’s a good thing Slonina has that regimen.

Still 17 years old, Slonina has been ordained the Fire’s starting goalie after a strong finish last season. Since the end of the 2021 campaign, the Addison native has become a face of the Fire, has been called up to the U.S. men’s national team for World Cup qualifiers and has been linked with transfer rumors connecting him to European heavyweights. Oh, he’s also eligible to play for the Polish national team and might have to decide relatively soon whether to commit to them or the U.S., a choice that would dictate his path in major international competitions.

Yet when he was asked about a timeline for making a move to Europe and also when he’d pick the U.S. or Poland, Slonina displayed the kind of poise that’s made him one of the world’s most coveted goalkeeping prospects.

“I think I can answer both those questions in one,” Slonina said. “I think right now, the main focus is about this preseason and finishing preseason strong. I’m not the type of player to look too much into the future. I want to be here, present now because obviously that’s what’s most important. But we never know what the future holds, so I think I’m just going to continue to give my all every single day in training, making sure that I’m helping guys on and off the field to have the most successful season that we can for this club.”

Steadiness like that is one reason the Fire — and apparently clubs in Europe — think so highly of Slonina, who will wear the No. 1 jersey this season, which is synonymous with a club’s first-choice goalie. That burgeoning reputation, plus the expectations that come with it, could be a detriment to many young players, especially ones suiting up for their hometown team.

It doesn’t seem like that’s the case for Slonina. Clearly, he has found ways to isolate himself from outside noise and stay honed in on the next shot coming his way, not which European team will sign him to a deal.

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

“I’m going to have that perfect balance of just working and giving my all every single day.”

NOTE: The Fire and WGN-TV announced Friday that the channel will broadcast 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 is slated to call a select number of games this summer.

Fire games have aired on WGN since 2020.

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