Gabriel Slonina taking fast-forward to adulthood in stride

Now with Chelsea, the former Fire goalkeeper is developing both on and off the field.

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Shown here with the Fire, Gabriel Slonina and the US men’s national team will face Jamaica on Saturday at Soldier Field.

Courtesy of the Fire

When you watch former Fire goalie Gabriel Slonina walk onto a soccer field, it’s easy to forget he’s just 19. Standing 6-4 and around 200 pounds, Slonina carries himself like somebody at least 10 years older.

But Slonina is still a kid, albeit one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the world trying to make his way with English Premier League mega-club Chelsea. With a place just outside London, Slonina is by himself for the first time after living with his family while he played for the Fire.

“It makes you grow up, for sure,” Slonina said. “I’m living on my own there, so I kind of had to adapt to everything, figuring out how to run my place by myself. Doing all the groceries for myself and everything, just taking care of myself. You kind of have to turn into an adult pretty quick.”

Slonina and the U.S. men’s national team are in town for their first match in the Gold Cup, scheduled for Saturday at Soldier Field against Jamaica. A year ago, Slonina was a Fire player rumored to be on the move to one of the many European giants.

Now that he has jumped the Atlantic Ocean, Slonina is fast-forwarding to adulthood in stride. He continues to stay focused on his goals and getting better every day, using the same approaches that kept him centered when he was a face of his hometown Fire.

“I just view it as something that I have to do, to want to be there,” Slonina said. “It’s a sacrifice I have to make. There’s going to be more sacrifices along the way, so I’ll just deal with it like I deal with all the others.”

It’s unclear what the next steps are in Slonina’s on-field development. After spending time with Chelsea’s under-21 team in Premier League 2 following his move to the club, it’s possible he’ll be loaned out to another team in a lower division during the upcoming season to gain experience. He hopes to be with Chelsea when they tour the U.S. later this summer, including an Aug. 2 stop in Chicago to play Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.

Off the field, Slonina is getting used to life as an adult. He likes to keep it simple when he cooks, usually chicken, salmon, pasta or rice.

“Nothing too crazy,” Slonina said. “I can cook well, but I don’t really like to clean all the plates. That’s the worst part. I do have a dishwasher, but I don’t like to do all the cleaning.”

Regardless of what Slonina cooks or his aversion to dealing with dirty dishes, moving to England’s biggest city is a formative experience for the Addison native. Leaving home is rarely easy and switching continents makes it tougher, but for Slonina, it was a necessary step in his journey to hopefully becoming one of the top goalies in soccer.

It’s a step Slonina is glad he took.

“I’m doing great. It’s obviously been a lot for me, but I think I’ve been able to manage really well,” he said. “It’s what I dreamed of doing. I’m really happy with where I’m at. Obviously a little bit hard being away from family, but you get used to it, along with everything.

“I think it’s really, really important for me to be there and really good for my family that I’m doing well and they’re doing well. Everything’s been good.”

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