August 11, 2022


For the Chicago Fire, the time was right to cash in on Gabriel Slonina instead of leaving the goalie ‘in limbo for months’

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The Chicago Fire find themselves in an odd spot with Major League Soccer’s secondary transfer...

The Chicago Fire find themselves in an odd spot with Major League Soccer’s secondary transfer window shutting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

They entered Wednesday within touching distance of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference — and need center back depth with nursing a Carlos Terán hamstring injury. But finding the right deal could be tricky, sporting director Georg Heitz said.

“Eevery club until the last minute of a transfer window is looking for opportunities,” Heitz said. “It’s not an easy market because if you want to make trades at the moment, many teams, or all teams, are still in the race for a playoff place.”

Here’s what else Heitz and coach Ezra Hendrickson said Wednesday.

The Fire on Tuesday announced the goalkeeper’s $10 million transfer to Chelsea, a move that includes a loan back to Chicago to finish the season. The deal includes a potential for $5 million more in add-ons.

But when asked if the Fire could have received more for the Addison native if they waited until the offseason or next summer, Heitz pointed out the goalkeeper’s contract ran only through 2023.

“The transfer fee of a player in the international market also depends on the duration of his contract,” Heitz said, “and Gaga had 18 months left on his deal with us. So the closer you get to the termination of this contract, the less money you will get in the end.”

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Heitz added he didn’t want to leave the 18-year-old “in limbo for months,” especially with serious interest in Slonina dating to at least January.

Heitz also left open the possibility Slonina could return to the Fire on loan for the 2023 season, but that would be determined by Chelsea. The Fire have veteran Spencer Richey and Chris Brady, another promising 18-year-old, as their other goalkeepers.

It doesn’t take special insight to recognize that becoming Soldier Field’s primary tenant would be appealing to the Fire should the Bears opt to move to the northwest suburb.

But Heitz said it isn’t his place to weigh in on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s stadium proposals — even though potential changes could greatly affect the playing surface and possibly include a dome.

“I think this is not a question for me because I really focus on the sporting side of this club,” Heitz said. “Of course, these plans looked great to me. But I’m really not the one who is competent to tell you things about what is feasible and what is not.”

Still, playing second fiddle to the Bears has a number of drawbacks, including a less-than-ideal pitch once the NFL season rolls around and having to change the date and location of some home games.

And like last season, when the Fire had to pay Bridgeview a base fee of $20,000 excluding expenses for a one-match return to SeatGeek Stadium, the team will be playing two matches there this year — including the Oct. 9 season finale, which could have playoff implications.

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Hendrickson last week said being forced to play elsewhere is “definitely” an inconvenience but stressed the Fire can’t worry about it too much.

“Whenever there’s a change like that, it can throw you off,” Hendrickson said July 27. “But at this point we can’t really worry about those things. … The focus is always going to be on getting three points, and that’s something that we can’t lose sight of regardless of where it is that the game is being played.”

For the Chicago Fire, the time was right to cash in on Gabriel Slonina instead of leaving the goalie ‘in limbo for months’

Durán on a recent Instagram story responded in the affirmative when was asked if he wanted to leave the Fire. Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours, so naturally it was screenshotted and made the rounds.

That the highly touted prospect hopes to use the Fire as a steppingstone to Europe is no surprise. But taking it to social media probably wasn’t the most professional move.

The 18-year-old forward, who has three goals this season, apologized Tuesday on Twitter.

Heitz said Wednesday that the Fire were “not amused” because “this is a question of respect.” But Heitz also recognized Durán is still a teenager.

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“We should not forget we have a young (player that’s) almost a kid,” Heitz said. “It’s absolutely good to have dreams, and he is also allowed to make mistakes at this age. But I made it very clear what we think of this, and I think he understood.”

Durán has developed into the Fire’s preferred option at striker despite the club acquiring Przybyłko and giving the Polish forward an extension.

Przybyłko has struggled, scoring only three goals in 14 starts, and has dealt with back issues.

“Sometimes strikers find themselves in a funk, in a run of bad form, and I think that’s basically what has transpired,” Hendrickson said Wednesday. “He was coming in, learning a new system, and it just hadn’t clicked for him. When we thought he was going to get going and get a good run of form, he had the back injury, a freak accident that happened in training, and that set him out a number of weeks.”

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