At just 17 years of age, homegrown Gabriel Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to ever start an MLS match on Wednesday night. And a couple of hours later he became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a shutout in Chicago Fire FC's history-making 0-0 draw against New York City FC.
Slonina then backed up his performance on the field with an inspirational message to other young players looking to make their way in the game.
"It's just about patience, positivity, discipline, consistency," Slonina said. "So much goes into a good performance, and I think it's just about having huge ambitions and never letting anyone tell you that you can't do what you want to do and what you want to set out to do."
Slonina, who has seen time with the US U-15 youth national team, was the Fire's youngest-ever signing and the league's second-youngest, behind only Freddy Adu, when he committed to Chicago in 2019 after developing in the club's academy. At 17 years and 81 days old, Slonina is more than a year younger than Toronto FC goalkeeper David Monsalve, who previous had the youngest goalkeeper record at 18 years, 220 days, playing in a 2007 match against the Fire.
"I was a kid just like them, you know," he added. "I had a dream to play at Soldier Field. I have dreams of becoming the best goalkeeper in the world, and it's just to never give up and never let anyone tell you what, what you can do and what you can't do."
Slonina made four saves in a match where an in-form NYCFC attack generated enough chances to measure at a 1.3 xG.
"I'm super, super thankful for the tie first and foremost," Slonina told media after the match. "Super emotional, a lot of hard work went into this moment, but I'm proud of the team for fighting and keeping this a tie and getting a point. Every point is important in the season, and I'm super grateful and thankful for the team and just feeling great right now.”
Slonina got the start in place of Bobby Shuttleworth, who missed the NYCFC game with an injury.
"We are very, very happy with Gaga's performance," head coach Raphael Wicky added, referring to Slonina by his nickname. "The team tried to protect and help Gaga and support and Gaga did a really great job in having a zero for his first game in his career, in his professional career is obviously amazing. I am happy with the defensive performance, even there are always things we can do better, but I am happy with the performance."