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Fire’s Gabriel Slonina seeks first career MLS win vs. Red Bulls

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Youth and history highlighted the Chicago Fire’s most recent match when 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS game. Then he made some more history by becoming the youngest goalkeeper to post a shutout in a draw against New York City FC.

This time, the Fire hope to give their young goalie some offense to support a win Sunday night when they host the New York Red Bulls.

Slonina committed to Chicago in 2019 following a development stint in the club’s academy and was 17 years, 81 days old Wednesday when he blanked NYCFC. The previous record was held by Toronto FC goalie David Monsalve, who was 18 years, 220 days old when he played in a 2007 match against Chicago.

Monsalve made only one MLS appearance before embarking on a lengthy international career. The Fire (3-9-5, 14 points) are hoping Slonina can help spark a club that enters this weekend tied for the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference with Toronto.

“I’m super, super thankful for the tie first and foremost,” Slonina said. “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. Because you know every point is important in the season, and yeah, I’m super grateful and thankful for the team and just feeling great right now.”

On Wednesday, Slonina made four saves, but the Fire saw their winless skid reach five games (0-2-3) since scoring three goals apiece in consecutive wins over Atlanta and Orlando City July 3-7. It was the seventh time Chicago was blanked, and one of those includes a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena in Harrison N.J. on May 1.

New York (5-7-4, 19 points) is winless in its past five games (0-2-3) since beating Orlando City on July 3 and entered this weekend five points behind seventh-place Columbus for the final playoff spot in the East.

On Wednesday, the Red Bulls mustered four shots on goal in a scoreless draw with visiting FC Cincinnati. The Red Bulls took 23 shots but missed on their best chance in the opening minutes when Patryk Klimala’s shot sailed high in the fifth minute.

New York has been held to one goal or less in five of its eight road games, but coach Gerhard Struber is hoping the addition of centerback Lucas Monzon can spark its struggling offense while also aiding a defense that has allowed 20 goals so far.

“With Lucas, we found a big talent from Uruguay,” Struber said Friday. “He’s a player with the abilities to create, in our style of play, some very, very good moments.”

–Field Level Media

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