With the Chicago Fire having just two regular-season games remaining, the time is coming for Gabriel Slonina to start thinking about his future with Chelsea.
The 18-year-old agreed a deal with the Premier League giants over the summer that could hit the $15m mark including add-ons, remaining in Chicago on loan through the 2022 MLS season.
Chelsea had to fight off stiff competition from the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Wolves to secure Slonina's signature. So, why did the young goalkeeper pick Stamford Bridge as the place to continue his development with so many other opportunities available to him?
"They really focused on a player's development and making sure they're seeing the right things, playing games, and getting minutes. Because obviously for a young goalkeeper, that's super important. You can train a lot, but you still have to see those game minutes and everything. I was drawn to the fans, to the location of where it's at. And it's Chelsea, so it was a no-brainer."
Prior to completing his move, Slonina suffered a noticeable dip in form, perhaps due to the distractions of an ongoing transfer saga.
That would be perfectly understandable for an 18-year-old, but Slonina has already returned to his best with the Fire - helped by some advice from fellow American goalkeeper Matt Turner, who also moved to London this year with Arsenal.
“He just told me that even when he was young, he made a lot of mistakes,” Slonina said of former New England Revolution goalkeeper Turner. “And I'm going to make mistakes young in my career and they're going to be highlighted because a lot of the times, it's sad to say, but a lot of people look for mistakes to have something to talk about. He just told me to keep going and trusting in the path, keep working every single day and you'll find that form again. He was a big help.”
With the Fire out of contention for the MLS Cup Playoffs, Slonina's last two games for the club come away at FC Cincinnati and at home to the New England Revolution.