Chris Brady started his second game of the season Saturday night.
Courtesy of the Fire
Following the Fire’s loss to the Philadelphia Union last Saturday, goalkeeper Chris Brady texted a friend and former teammate who’d understand what he had just experienced. In the 90th minute, Brady allowed Joaquin Torres’ seemingly harmless shot from outside the 18-yard box to skip past him for what turned out to be the game-winning goal, and wanted to know how that friend dealt mentally with his own miscues.
On the other end of the conversation: Gabriel Slonina. A year ago, Slonina was the Fire’s teenage starting goalie and struggled at times during the 2022 season but worked past those stumbles.
Now Brady, 19, is the young goalkeeper with a big name and potential, going through his first full campaign as an MLS starter.
“It was a more general text. It wasn’t too personal,” Brady said. “He did mention what I was already leaning towards doing pretty quickly, [which] was making sure that the next training week following is super sharp, super good, super clean in preparation for the next game, because that would give me the most confidence going into the following week and the following test.”
Brady’s next test was Saturday night at a frigid Soldier Field when the Fire tied FC Cincinnati 3-3. The Fire were without Xherdan Shaqiri and Jairo Torres (right upper leg) and Federico Navarro (left upper leg) due to injuries, while Kei Kamara and Fabian Herbers were suspended after getting two yellow cards in Philadelphia.
It looked like those absences wouldn’t be costly for the Fire, who got first-half goals from Kacper Przybylko and Rafael Czichos plus a second-half score from Chris Mueller to take a 3-1 lead. Junior Moreno scored in the eighth minute to give Cincinnati an early lead, and Sergio Santos beat Brady in the 84th to cut the Fire edge in half.
Cincinnati tied the game in the 87th when Moreno picked up his second, depriving the Fire of their first win. It appears Brady, who made five saves and was blameless on all three goals, has the confidence of his team.
But coach Ezra Hendrickson indicated he wasn’t using how he handled Slonina as a guide for Brady, even if their ages and developmental stages are pretty similar.
“As a coach, the key is reading the player, because every player is going to handle a devastating situation differently,” Hendrickson said. “But from reading Chris and from being around him, I think he’s very strong mentally. I think he’ll be fine.”
The Fire are counting on that, even if they have to handle inevitable ups and downs from a young and talented goalkeeper once again
“It’s growing pains, but we are confident in him and his abilities,” Hendrickson said.
Being able to deal with the growing pains, Brady said, is a sign of maturity and not something to hide from.
Brady also mentioned what he’s heard in the past from Mikey Varas, the coach of the US Under-20 national team. Mistakes or bad moments shouldn’t just be wiped away, but learned from.
“‘Any time a game doesn’t go your way or a play doesn’t go your way, it’s a scar,’” Brady said, recalling Varas’ message. “‘You take that scar and it’s a memory, it’s a lesson but you need to learn from it. It will heal very quickly if you continue to just progress and not dwell on it.’”
If Brady heeds those words, he can recover the way Slonina did last year if his form dips.
“He’s been through it,” Brady said. “It’s good to know that someone can go through that and then bounce back the way [Slonina] did. That’s hopefully what I’m looking to do.”