The Chicago Fire may already be excited about their top goalkeeping option in 18-year-old Gabriel Slonina, but fellow homegrown Chris Brady is continuing to raise eyebrows in MLS NEXT Pro with Fire II this season.
Brady, 18, is currently the No. 1 goalkeeper with Chicago Fire FC II, continuing his overall development and pushing for future involvement with the first team under head coach Ezra Hendrickson. A native of Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Brady is one of several promising young talents within the Fire’s academy that is making the most of his time in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season.
Brady has totaled two clean sheets, 18 total saves, and a 90% percentage through his four MLS NEXT Pro appearances, being a key leader for Ludovic Taillander’s squad in the opening stage of the regular season.
“For me, getting game time with MLS NEXT Pro and the second team is really a chance for me to see what areas I can improve on in terms of game time and the way I play in games,” Brady told MLS NEXT Pro in an interview. “Over the last four appearances, it’s opportunities for me to learn in each of them and I think it has been great so far.
“I know a lot of my teammates very well, whether it be guys on the second team or even guys that come down from the first team. It’s taken us a little while to get that chemistry down, but I think we’re really starting to click and you saw that in the win over FC Cincinnati 2.”
Brady is still searching for his first-team debut for the Fire, after mainly featuring in the past for the club’s academy teams, and also having two loan spells at Forward Madison FC in the USL. He recently signed a new multi-year contract with the Fire through the 2026 MLS season, which also includes an option for 2027.
Although Brady has Slonina and veteran Spencer Richey in front of him in the Fire goalkeeping pecking order, he is excited to continue his career with his hometown club and his club and international teammate Slonina.
“I was extremely excited about the deal,” Brady said. “Being able to stay in my hometown for the next four-to-five years is a dream for sure. The contract definitely does help give you confidence as a young player, but the biggest thing is just acknowledging the amazing opportunity that I’ve been given and then keep putting my mind and body to work. Definitely very grateful for everything the club has done for me.
“Gabriel is a great guy, off the field if you talk to him, he’s very easy to talk to,” Brady said about Slonina. “We have been working together since we were 12-13 years old, we know each other fairly well. He’s a great guy, passionate about what he does and it’s quite inspiring. Once you start to work with him, you try to watch him a little closer and add things he does into your game. He has a bright future ahead of him for sure.”
Not only is Brady aiming for a long-term role in the Fire first team someday, but he is also hoping to play a key role for the United States later this summer. Brady earned his first call-up to the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team back in March, getting to feature in friendly matches against Argentina’s U-20 side and River Plate.
Teaming up with several other top young MLS talents including Paxten Aaronson, Caden Clark, Quinn Sullivan, and Obed Vargas, Brady helped the Americans to a pair of unbeaten results in Argentina, featuring in the first match with stars Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Javier Mascherano watching on the sidelines.
Brady, a former U.S. Under-15 Boys National Team player, is preparing for an invite into Mikey Varas’ side for the Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras this June-July. The United States has won each of the last two editions of the tournament and will be stepping into a competitive environment for the first time since 2018 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would say going into Argentina first and foremost it was a chemistry thing,” Brady said. “A first appearance for the U-20’s... it can always be a little daunting, but I wanted to get into camp, get to know the players very well, and show the coaching staff what I can do on the field. It was something I can look back on forever because we played two very skillful teams and I think it will help in the long run.
“We were in the huddle and someone noticed Messi on the sidelines, so everyone wanted to give that extra 10% in their game knowing a great player like him was watching,” Brady said. “It was daunting for sure, but it’s a moment I will certainly cherish and tell to a lot of people for the rest of my life. It was definitely a highlight of my time there and my career so far.”
Up next for Brady and Chicago Fire II is a road match at TFC II on May 27 before a return to SeatGeek Stadium for a home showdown with Columbus Crew 2 on June 4. The MLS NEXT Pro regular season still provides 16 more opportunities for Brady and his teammates to not only continue their overall development as players but fight for the franchise and hopefully finish at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Brady already has both individual and team goals in mind for the rest of 2022 as domestic and international opportunities remain key for the 18-year-old this season.
“I have continued to work hard to work on my position, mainly being in the gym every day after practice to work on my physique as a goalkeeper,” Brady said. “I think as a young player it’s important to stay in top shape, even if you might not be playing every day. I am also in the film room looking at videos of myself and other goalies from the first and second teams to try and get better and always stay ahead of the game.
“For us as a team, I think it’s key to hold it down in terms of the backline and making sure we start stringing together some clean sheets to make things difficult for our opponents,” Brady added. “The goal for us is to make the playoffs so that's our overall goal this season, we’re really working hard for that. Every individual on the roster is working hard and I think we do have a shot for the playoffs, so we’re going to keep working towards that goal.”