BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Once you get past his wild hairstyle, the first thing you notice about 17-year-old Fire striker Kellen Gulley is his size.
The Home Grown player, who signed with Chicago’s first team last Thursday and started training with the full squad on Monday, is still just a teenager, but at 6-foot, 185 pounds, he already has a stronger build than many of his older teammates.
Given his big frame, one would expect Gulley, who is just coming back from an ACL injury, to play relatively physical soccer. Not so, says the Fire Juniors–Mississippi product.
“I’ve been a technical player,” Gulley told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I don’t really like getting into physical battles but here that’s mostly all it is; short games and just a bunch of pushing off of each other. I’ve got to work on that.”
Of course, adapting to MLS’ physical style isn’t the only thing the US U-17 international needs to work on. Gulley, who is currently living with Fire director of player personnel Mike Jeffries and will move into a house with two other Fire Juniors–Mississippi players when they move to Chicago later this year, knows he has plenty of room for improvement in other areas as well.
“I just can’t stop working,” he said. “There’s always something you need to work on; technical stuff, fitness, long balls, shooting, heading, there’s always something.”
Fortunately for the soft-spoken striker, he’ll be able to work on his game in a low pressure environment. He’s not eligible to play in league matches until next year, leaving him to focus solely on training and reserve games for the remainder of 2011.
“It’s going to be intense from here on out,” he said. “I just have to get used to it. Come 2012, I definitely want to be ready to play.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.