Chris Brady gives Fire two elite young goalies

He’s an 18-year-old homegrown goalkeeper expected to have a big future. Despite his age, he’s a prospect for a European move and potentially might get some playing time for the U.S. national team when he’s older.

Of course, this refers to Chris Brady.

Like Fire teammate and fellow goalie Gabriel Slonina, Brady is building a strong reputation while he’s still a teenager. He recently backstopped the United States to the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship title and qualification for the Under-20 World Cup in 2023 and the Summer Olympics in 2024, winning the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper in the tournament.

Yet it seems Brady, a Naperville native, is overshadowed by Slonina. While Slonina has seized the Fire’s starting job and has been linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea, Brady still is waiting to make his senior debut, though he was connected with a possible move to Belgian side Club Brugge earlier this year.

Despite the hype around Slonina and his role with the Fire, Brady doesn’t begrudge his friend, colleague and competitor. Training with Slonina has pushed Brady to get better, and he’s happy for Slonina’s success.

“[Slonina is] a great guy,” Brady said. ”Not a slight bit of resentment. I’m insanely happy for him, and hopefully that’s going to be me in a few years.”

Brady’s trajectory indicates that’s possible.

On loan with USL League One’s Forward Madison in 2020, Brady was named the circuit’s young player of the year. Now the starter for Fire II in MLS Next Pro, the 6-3 Brady has the physical attributes to be an upper-echelon performer once he gains more experience.

When he gets the chance to play for the Fire, Brady is confident he’ll be ready. And considering that he’s signed through 2026 with a club option for 2027 and a new rumor about Slonina pops up weekly, Brady’s tenure as the Fire’s No. 1 might start in the next couple of years.

Brady, however, wants to break through to the Fire soon.

“I can only do so much,” Brady said. “What I can control is my work ethic, and when I get back home [from the under-20 national team], I’m looking forward to getting back to things and grinding. I don’t really have a set timeline because it’s more up to the coaches. But especially this season, I’m looking forward to working my [butt] off to try and get into that starting 11. . . . Hopefully sometime by the end of this season, you’ll see me on the field.”

Regardless of when Brady makes his first appearance with the Fire, he’s part of a rare occurrence. Two goalkeeping prodigies were born in the Chicago suburbs within two months of each other in 2004 and grew up to sign with the same team.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to find that ever again — or even now — anywhere else in the world,” Brady said. “It’s insanely unique. Because I’m one of them, it’s kind of hard to believe. But I’m sure for people looking in from the outside, it’s even crazier.”

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