BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire on Thursday announced that they have signed 17-year-old forward Kellen Gulley as their second Home Grown player.
Not that Gulley is exactly at home in Chicago — not yet, anyway. The US Under-17 international is actually from Clinton, Miss., where he played for the Chicago Fire Juniors-Mississippi.
Gulley, who will start training with the Fire on Monday but won’t be added to Chicago’s first team until 2012, is the first player from the three Fire Juniors programs based outside of Chicagoland to sign with the full squad.
“He’s got a lot of ability as a forward,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said of the team’s newest player. “We feel that he’s going to excel in this kind of environment.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound striker, who has four goals in eight caps with the Under-17 national team, joins 18-year-old midfielder Victor Pineda as the two Home Grown players on the Fire’s roster. Like Pineda, who hasn’t appeared in a competitive match since signing with the first team last August, Gulley probably won’t see a lot of time at the beginning of his first-team tenure.
“It’s hard to say,” Klopas said when asked how soon he thinks Gulley will be able to contribute. “With young players that have ability and talent — and he definitely does — you want to bring them in as soon as possible and get them in the best environment so they can excel and grow fast.
“It’ll be a great opportunity for him right from the [start of next] preseason. Physically, he’s a strong kid, he’s obviously young and he needs to mature, but you need to put him in and test him right away and see mentally where he is and I think we’ll do that right off the bat next year.”
Klopas also said Gulley’s signing is a good sign for the Mississippi program, which was founded in April 2006.
“I think it’s a credit to a lot of hard work that everyone in this organization puts forward to reach out to different communities to provide quality training,” Klopas said. “With that have an opportunity to “identify players like Kellen, which is great. It’s been very positive.
In a short time, we’ve been able to produce a player and it’s great and all thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of people in the Fire organization.”