Ezra Hendrickson hails Gabriel Slonina's Chelsea quality in nine-save performance

Slonina was the star again for the Chicago Fire.
Slonina was the star again for the Chicago Fire. / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Things just keep getting better and better for Gabriel Slonina.

The Chicago Fire man, of course, recently sealed a record-breaking move to Premier League giants Chelsea and is widely regarded as the best teenage goalkeeper on the planet right now.

In his current form, Slonina is highly likely to make Gregg Berhalter's USMNT roster for the World Cup later this year before he officially heads to England to begin the next chapter in his short career.

That form continued on Saturday as Slonina put in a nine-save performance to keep a clean sheet in the Fire's 0-0 draw at the Columbus Crew, keeping the hosts out despite 1.78 xGOT.

To anyone who has watched him closely this year, these sorts of performances are becoming quite standard for Slonina, who now has 12 clean sheets on the 2022 MLS season - only Andre Blake and Sean Johnson have more (13).

"He's always been a confident goalkeeper. He's always been a good keeper. Hence, he signed a contract with Chelsea," Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said after Saturday's stalemate in Columbus.

"But he came up with another great performance again. I think that's his 11th, maybe 12th shutout this year. So you know, we know that he's a good goalkeeper, and has been good all year for us. So we're happy to have him."

In an exclusive interview with 90min last month, shortly after sealing that transfer to Chelsea, Slonina insisted his focus will remain totally on helping the Fire succeed between now and the end of the season.

The 18-year-old has made good on his promise so far and will continue to do so as he tries to help the Fire return to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.

"I mean, for me, it's obviously about giving my best every single game and obviously just staying in the moment and doing what I can for my team to come out and get the three points," Slonina replied when asked about his mentality with the Chelsea move approaching. "I think I'm just going to continue to focus on every single match at hand because I think that will, in the end, prepare me for what's to come."

Up next for the Fire is a home tie against Inter Miami on Saturday.

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