Starting goalie or not, Fire’s Chris Brady focused on performance

Brady said his preparation hasn’t changed even though his role could this year.

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Chris Brady could be the Fire’s starting goalie when the season opens March 4.

Courtesy of the Fire

The comparisons to Gabriel Slonina are obvious and inevitable. Like his former teammate, Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady is a local product considered a top prospect. And whenever he officially is anointed the Fire’s starting goalie, he will face high expectations to live up to his pedigree.

Whether he meant to or not, Brady sounded a lot like Slonina when he was asked about competing to be the Fire’s No. 1 goalie for their season opener next Saturday.

‘‘As much as I want to push and make my case to be a starter between the sticks, I’m just focused on getting the team into a better spot and starting off the MLS season better than we did last year,’’ Brady said. ‘‘So I’m not too caught up in who is starting [and] who is not right now. I’m just more focused on games that I do play, trying to perform.’’

Even if they answer questions similarly, that doesn’t mean Brady is just a clone o rdoing an impression of Slonina. He is confident in his own skills and experience, including playing big games for the United States’ Under-20 national team.

Clearly, Brady thinks his already-impressive résumé has prepared him to start for the Fire and make his own mark on the team.

‘‘Environment, fans, noise — that doesn’t affect me preparation-wise,’’ Brady said. ‘‘Just making sure I’m technically sound leading up to the game, making sure that performances in training are clean and I’m getting all the information I need for the game coming up. If I do end up becoming the starter, I feel pretty prepared to take charge and lead our team to a victory and a shutout.’’

Unlike last season, when it was obvious Slonina would start, Brady entered this training camp with a strong chance to take over in the net. But that hasn’t changed his approach to his job.

‘‘The levels don’t really change the way I train, prepare [and] look at things,’’ Brady said. ‘‘I’m here just kind of doing me and trying to play the best I can. I wouldn’t say it changes what I do a whole lot.’’

Brady, who will turn 19 on Friday, is competing with veterans Jeff Gal and Spencer Richey for the top spot on the depth chart. Gal, 29, is a Bartlett native who played youth soccer with Sockers FC Chicago but had spent his entire career in Sweden, mostrecently with Degerfors IF.

It’s plausible the Fire could opt to start with Gal and give Brady more time todevelop. If that happens, it’s possible they could loan Brady to a USL Championship team or maybe even Chicago Fire II in MLS Next Pro to get regular playing time.

Brady’s preference — outside of starting — isn’t to leave. He rather would compete.

‘‘On the off chance that I am not the starter, I’d prefer to stay here and work my [butt] off to get that starting spot,’’ Brady said. ‘‘That’s not really a decision that I can make. But as much as I can, I’d like to be here integrating with the squad.’’

NOTE: The Fire acquired veteran striker Kei Kamara from Montreal for $250,000 in allocation money, a total that could rise to $400,000 if certain performance-based incentives are met. Kamara, 38, had requested a move away from Montreal and the Fire will be his 10th MLS team.

Kamara’s 139 goals are third in MLS history.

Despite acquiring Kamara, the Fire are still believed to be looking for a striker, one who could be a designated player. The Kamara acquisition also throws more doubt onto the future of Kacper Przybylko, who struggled last season after coming to the Fire from Philadelphia.

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