English Premier League side Chelsea announced on Tuesday the signing of U.S. youth international Gabriel Solnina from the Chicago Fire, with the goalkeeper remaining in Major League Soccer until the end of the current season.
The 18-year-old has put pen to paper on a six-year deal in a reported record transfer for Chicago.
The Illinois native will join the core group of goalkeepers in England that are currently playing for the U.S. men’s national team, with Zack Steffen on loan at Middlesbrough from Manchester City, Matt Turner at Arsenal, and Ethan Horvath on loan at Luton Town from Nottingham Forest.
“We’re very proud and happy to see Gaga reach this milestone moment in his career,” said the Chicago Fire’s Sporting Director Georg Heitz in a statement. “Since joining the Club, Gaga has embodied what it means to be a Chicago Fire player. In addition to his incredible talent, he is mature beyond his years, extremely hard-working, and a fantastic teammate. Gaga is a role model to many young aspiring footballers in Chicago, and this transfer demonstrates that a player can progress to the first team from our Academy before joining one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
Slonina, who joined the Chicago Fir system at 10 years old, made his first start for the team at 17 years old in their 0-0 draw with New York City FC on August 4, 2021. Since that time he has estblished himself as the No.1, appearing in 34 games.
While excited for the move to London, the 6-4 netminder expressed his appreciation to the Fire for helping him achieve his dream.
“I joined this Club with ambitions of playing at the highest level and it’s been a dream come true to wear the Chicago Fire jersey,” said Slonina. “This Club has become my second home, my second family, and there are so many people that have played a big role in helping me get to where I am today. I’m so thankful for all the support that I’ve received from my family, coaches, teammates, and everyone associated with the Club. It’s been an incredible honor to work alongside each one of you.”
“To the fans, I want to thank you all for supporting a local boy from Addison. You have inspired me to work my hardest day in and day out.”
“I promise that I will continue to give everything in these final 11 games to help get us back into the playoffs and compete for a championship.”
Slonina has signed with Chelsea, but he’ll head back across the Atlantic to play out the rest of the season with the Fire who retained him on loan.