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Meet Gabriel Slonina, Next Great American Goalkeeper

Gabriel ‘Gaga’ Slonina is quickly becoming one of the top young American talents to keep an eye on and his progression continues to raise him to new levels.

At 17, Slonina is already an MLS starter for the Chicago Fire and it seems like the keeper’s making astounding saves on a weekly basis.

The U.S. always has a long line of great goalkeepers, and Slonina appears to be the next American up that will have the opportunity to establish himself as one of the country’s elite players.

ONE37pm takes a closer look at Slonina and what his future might look like for club and country.

Slonina’s Background

Slonina was born in the U.S. and eligible to play for the USMNT, which seems inevitable given his quick rise as a teenager.

The Fire keeper was born just west of Chicago and has been involved with the club since 2016.

Slonina became one of the youngest professional signings in MLS history when he officially joined the Fire at the age of 14.

Since making his debut in 2021, he’s locked down the starting position in net and shot up the ranks with the USMNT.

This season, Slonina has three clean sheets thus far for the Eastern Conference side and the 6-foot 4-inch shot stopper became the youngest MLS keeper to ever post a clean sheet back in 2021 against league champions New York City FC.

Slonina’s Future

In a limited amount of time, Slonina has already proven to be one of the top-end goalkeepers in MLS, which says a lot about the 17 year old’s potential.

It’s highly likely that Slonina makes a move to Europe in the next year or two, especially as he looks to gain a European visa through his Polish heritage.

He’s already been linked to several top sides, including Juventus, and the American could be one of the next exports to complete a move to one of Europe’s top leagues.

Slonina has already shot up the U.S. youth international ranks, representing the U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-20 national teams.

It’s becoming more and more clear that Slonina is the latest in a long line of top American goalkeepers to make a strong impression, and he could soon follow the likes of Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and many others.

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Charlotte FC’s Historic Home MLS Debut

Football in Charlotte has officially arrived.

Before walking into Bank of America Stadium last Saturday, I had the opportunity to walk the streets of the community and take in sights and scenes before Charlotte FC’s first-ever home MLS match.

Wandering through local bars and restaurants, as well as the tailgates that manned almost every local parking lot, it was evident that this expansion side had taken over the Queen City.

I stumbled upon a group of young players kicking the ball around outside the stadium and asked each of them who their favorite player was.

It’s a new club. There aren’t a ton of recognizable names, and yet, each kid named a different player.

That’s when it sunk in. MLS has a super destination and Charlotte is going to play a big role in the league’s growth for years to come.

The club’s match against the LA Galaxy wasn’t the Eastern Conference side’s first in MLS but it certainly had the feel of a debut.

There were stars in the crowd from various sports, including Carolina Panthers receivers Steve Smith Jr. and DJ Moore. Former USMNT legend Clint Dempsey was in attendance with his family as well.

But the night wasn’t just about the celebrities, it was the Charlotte supporters that arrived five, six, some seven or more hours prior to kickoff to show that they were ready to have a professional team in MLS.

They were vocal all night, and when the stadium sound system went out during the national anthem the supporters picked up the slack and delivered a resounding rendition.

The match itself was physical and daunting for both sides, and even though the Galaxy came out with the win, Charlotte certainly rallied around its crowd and fought until the final whistle.

This team and city might not be able to keep up with 74,000-plus fans every matchday, but one thing is for certain; football in Charlotte is here to stay.

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Five Charlotte FC Players to Watch This Weekend

Charlotte FC is about to embark upon one of the biggest sporting debuts in American history this weekend.

The expansion MLS side is expecting a crowd of over 73,500 supporters in the heart of North Carolina’s biggest city and that bodes well for a community that has been seeking proper football attention in the country’s top flight.

Charlotte debuted in a 3-0 defeat against DC United a week ago, but the true test for the new club will be how they rally behind their home faithful on Saturday night when the city and country are all watching.

If the club’s aspirations come to fruition, Charlotte’s home match against the LA Galaxy will be the most-attended single game in MLS history, breaking a spell set by Atlanta United on several occasions.

Today, we’re taking a look at five Charlotte FC players that you should be watching coming into the weekend.

Jaylin Lindsey

Lindsey is a promising defender that previously spent time at Sporting KC. The Charlotte native returns home to help the expansion side build out its initial squad and the former U.S. Under-20 right back will have to be consistent for this team to surprise the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Christian Fuchs

Fuchs is the veteran in the squad that everyone turns to given his vast European experience. The former Leicester City defender is tasked with serving as the heart and soul of the team and leading by example for a team that features plenty of youth.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Fuchs will have a variety of defensive roles with this Charlotte side, especially after the team lined up with five at the back in Week 1.

Ben Bender

The top pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft comes to Charlotte as a young player with an opportunity to make an instant impact in the midfield. Bender was very sought after coming into the league after starring at the University of Maryland.

Last year, Bender was a key figure for NPSL side FC Baltimore Christos, where he scored six goals and won the league’s Young Player of the Year award.

Christian Ortiz

Ortiz brings a strong presence after playing for some of South America’s elite sides like Huracan, Racing and Independiente.

Ortiz will be relied upon heavily up front as one of the side’s main sources of goals. He’s got great pace and versatility to be utilized in various positions on the front line which gives Charlotte flexibility with how it aligns.

McKinze Gaines

Gaines actually spent the first few seasons of his career in Germany before coming to MLS in 2021 where he spent time with Austin FC during their debut season.

Now, the Texas native is looking to bring a spark to Charlotte in their inaugural campaign

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Meet Caleb Wiley, Atlanta’s Homegrown Hero

Major League Soccer’s youth presence continues to soar with the league putting more emphasis on developing talent in the United States.

On Sunday, yet another bright young talent made his MLS debut and it was quite a memorable one for Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley.

Yesterday marked a truly historic day for the teenager as he helped guide the Eastern Conference side to a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City.

Wiley capped the game off with a late goal and the Five Stripes have another quality defender following in the footsteps of Miles Robinson and George Bello, who was recently sold to German side Arminia Bielefeld.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Wiley said postgame. “I don’t score many goals that often, so when I do it’s definitely a speechless moment.

“When I saw it go into the back of the net, it was a huge moment for me. To do it in front of this huge crowd, in front of friends and family is something special.”

History of Wiley

The 17-year-old left back came up through Atlanta’s system and has been involved with the club since 2016.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the past two seasons, Wiley has spent significant time with Atlanta United 2, the club’s USL affiliate, and he became an important part of their side before making the leap to the senior team.

Wiley primarily plays left back but can also advance higher on the wing, as shown by his willingness to get forward in Atlanta’s first win of 2022.

The Georgia native has already represented the U.S. at various youth levels, including the Under 17 and Under 20 national teams.

Wiley’s Future

With Bello now playing in Germany, Wiley has a huge opportunity to stamp his presence on Atlanta’s squad in 2022 and beyond.

Wiley played just 15 minutes in his MLS debut and it was evident that he’s capable of not only being a solid defensive option but also provides a lot going forward to help Josef Martinez and the Atlanta attack.

United manager Gonzalo Pineda praised the young defender after Sunday’s win and made it sound like there were be a lot more coming with the 17 year old.

“He has all the ingredients needed to have a very good career,” Pineda said in Spanish. “But obviously we’re going to take it step by step, so he can build a good base that allows him to have a long career.

“It’s very easy to give players a chance to debut, but it’s more difficult to turn them into great players, and that’s my mission with him.”

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Best MLS Kits 2022

It’s MLS season once again and that means kit drops for all 28 clubs across the league.

Charlotte FC will debut this season, and the Eastern Conference side is one of several teams going bold in 2022 with mint as part of their jersey strategy.

Meanwhile, the overall theme of this campaign is that MLS teams have gone more bold with their kits.

Last season, the Seattle Sounders put out their amazing tribute kits to honor Jimi Hendrix.

Clubs like Sporting KC typically have very elegant kits that make other team’s supporters envious, but this year the playing field is a bit more level.

ONE37pm takes a look at the 10 best kits ahead of the 2022 MLS season.

Montreal Impact
MLS

The marble concept is extremely cool, especially because it fits the Montreal color scheme so perfectly. Many clubs opt for very simple white kits, but the Canadian side definitely made the most of their opportunity.

Orlando City
MLS

Orlando got everything right with this kit and fully embraced its ode to the Sunshine State. The subtleties of the colors fading into the club’s primary color of purple are very well done and this kit is going to look even better on the pitch.

New York Red Bulls
MLS

Many clubs have tried to emulate what Croatia has built with its renowned checkerboard pattern, but the red on red design with the Red Bulls’ 2022 kit goes quite well.

Chicago Fire
MLS

This Fire kit is very well done with the subtle Chicago skyline featured as the center piece throughout.

Seattle Sounders
MLS

Seattle’s legacy kit uses a simple pattern but it’s execution is very top class. The green meshes well with the blue squares and the Sounders have once again done a fine job with its kit.

New York City FC
MLS

Last season’s MLS Cup winners went very bold with its alternate kit, but the ‘Volt’ does grow on you after the initial shock of the amount of orange used.

Atlanta United
MLS

Although the pattern itself is a bit confusing, Atlanta uses the mint quite well and it blends in with the white perfectly.

Houston Dynamo
MLS

The Dynamo might have one of the best kits of the year with their camo design. It’s the perfect ode to the ‘Bayou’ and gives Houston an awesome blending with its new badge.

Los Angeles FC
MLS

In a lot of ways, this LAFC kit feels like some of the Liga MX jerseys of the past. And it’s perfect with the gradient throughout the kit which allows the gold to really pop.

Portland Timbers
MLS

The Rose City aspect of Portland finally shines through with this kit and the Timbers are going to be looking so fresh when they step out onto the Providence Park pitch all season.

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Meet Luquinhas, Red Bulls’ Promising Playmaker

The New York Red Bulls may have gotten away from their days of signing high-profile talents like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, but the club continues to produce an immense amount of youth talent.

With a group of strong young players led by Caden Clark and Cristian Casseres Jr. the Red Bulls have reason for optimism in 2022, and now that they’ve brought in another young face perhaps they can build off of last season’s playoff push.

The Red Bulls recently acquired Brazilian attacker Luquinhas from Polish giants Legia Warsaw and now the team has yet another promising threat that can add another layer to their front group.

SOPA Images / Contributor

Luquinhas will join Clark, as well as strikers Tom Barlow and Patrik Klimala as the Eastern Conference side’s main source of attacking options this year.

ONE37pm takes a deeper look at the 25 year old and how he can help impact the club.

History of Luquinhas

Luquinhas came up playing in his native Brazil and started out at local club Atlético Ceilandense before making a move to Portugal in 2014.

The attacker landed at Vilafranquense before getting introduced to Portuguese giants Benfica. Although Luquinhas never had the chance to make an impression with the first team, he was able to shine with Vilafranquense over a few seasons.

He found a home at Legia Warsaw for several seasons starting in 2019 and won back-to-back Ekstraklasa titles in 2020 and 2021.

Style of Play

Luquinhas is extremely impressive on the ball and despite his diminutive size the Brazilian can find clever ways to get away from pressure.

Although he’s primarily used as an attacking midfielder, Luquinhas also has experience on the wing, which will afford the Red Bulls different opportunities to use his creativity.

While at Legia Warsaw, the Brazilian made it a habit of putting defenses into dangerous positions by getting forward often and finding every way possible to get the ball at his feet.

Luquinhas’ Future

The Brazilian will have a huge opportunity to help become a mainstay in the Red Bulls attack for future seasons, especially if he can build instant chemistry with Klimala.

Clark is expected to leave the Red Bulls once his loan from RB Leipzig expires, so that will give Luquinhas an even larger role with the MLS side.

The Red Bulls are gaining a much-needed talent in the midfield that will surely help their attack this season and beyond, and Luquinhas could follow in the footsteps of some talented short kings that have played great in MLS over previous years like Sebastian Giovinco and Luciano Acosta.

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2022 Chicago Fire Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and the Chicago Fire are the third team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

The Fire finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season after picking up just nine wins, but the club has made one of the splashes of the offseason with the arrival of Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri.

The former Bayern and Liverpool attacker will be looking to lead Chicago back to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Here’s a closer look at the Chicago Fire heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

The Fire finished 12th in the Eastern Conference in 2021, 14 points off the final playoff spot, which was held by the New York Red Bulls. Chicago won nine matches, but only captured three wins after the beginning of September.

Manager

Ezra Hendrickson takes over with the Fire in his first season after gathering significant experience with some of MLS’ top sides over the years. Hendrickson most recently served as an assistant with the Columbus Crew and previously held roles with the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.

Key Players

Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) is one of the marquee signings of the MLS offseason and he offers a much-needed lift in attention being focused on Chicago.

Gabriel Slonina (USA) is one of the top young goalkeepers in MLS and he likely won’t be playing for the Fire very long. He’s already got significant attention in Europe and holds a Polish passport, which will give him direct access to overseas clubs that are after him.

Kacper Przybyłko (Poland) came over from the Philadelphia Union last year and he’s a huge upgrade at striker for a team that has been lacking in goals.

Key Matches in 2022

May 7 at Atlanta United

May 22 at New York City FC

July 16 vs. Seattle Sounders

August 31 at New England Revolution

Expectations

The arrival of Shaqiri alone makes the Fire much more attractive this season than years past, but Chicago definitely has the pieces up front to at least be entertaining.

Finding their way back to the playoffs won’t be easy, but if Przybyłko and Shaqiri can stir up a bit of magic anything is possible.

Defensively, the Fire will need to improve significantly under Hendrickson after conceding the third-most goals in the East in 2021.

Homegrown center back Mauricio Pineda will certainly be one player to watch at the back that can continue to provide stability for the Fire.

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2022 Charlotte FC Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and the Charlotte FC are the fourth team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

Charlotte will make its MLS debut this season after years of planning its arrival as the league’s 28th club.

The North Carolina-based side made an initial splash in 2021 when they revealed Christian Fuchs would be signing with the club after being part of the historic Leicester City side that won the Premier League in 2015/16.

Charlotte continues to build its squad on the fly, but with promising youngsters in the fold like No. 1 overall pick Ben Bender and Adam Armour perhaps they’ll make some noise in Year 1.

Here’s a closer look at the Charlotte FC heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

2022 marks the first season Charlotte will compete in MLS. Charlotte will compete in the Eastern Conference.

Manager

Miguel Angel Ramirez became the first coach in Charlotte history in 2022 beginning his managerial career in Europe and South America. Ramirez most recently coached in Brazil with Internacional, where they reached the Copa Libertadores Round of 16 a year ago.

Key Players

Karol Swiderski (Poland) is Charlotte’s Designated Player striker who has 14 appearances for the Poland national team. The 25 year old will likely play a role in the Polish squad that will aim to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar this year.

Sergio Ruiz (Spain) is a veteran midfielder that brings in a lot of quality for Charlotte after playing for years at Racing Santander. Ruiz played for Las Palmas recently and hopes to bring some of that tenacity and creativity into the Charlotte midfield.

Ben Bender (USA) will be getting a lot of time as a rookie after being highly respected from his time in college. He’ll anchor that midfield and hope to be a strong two-way player that can help Charlotte control possession in the center of the pitch.

Key Matches in 2022

March 5 vs. LA Galaxy

April 9 vs. Atlanta United

April 16 at New England Revolution

August 17 at New York City FC

Expectations

Charlotte has an underrated squad heading into Year 1 and despite only having one Designated Player to this point there’s a very good chance they add players during the season.

The club has been ambitious with its marketing and will have a strong fanbase from the opening whistle that kicks off the MLS season.

Charlotte is reportedly expecting over 65,000 fans for their inaugural home opener against the LA Galaxy, which would be massive for the city and the club.

With veteran presences around the club, including Fuchs and Harrison Afful, don’t be surprised if Charlotte is in the playoff mix throughout much of the season.

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2022 Austin FC Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and Austin FC is the second team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

After finishing near the bottom of the table in Year 1, Austin has its sights set on an improved finish in 2022 as the club continues to add more talent in the attack.

Austin features many players with strong MLS experience, so perhaps their sophomore season will yield more results for Josh Wolff and Co.

Here’s a closer look at Austin FC heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

Austin finished 12th in the West during their first MLS season after winning nine matches. The Texas side beat several teams that reached the postseason, including the Portland Timbers, who advanced to MLS Cup.

Manager

Josh Wolff enters his second season in Austin as the club aims to build a playoff side. Wolff is a former U.S. Men’s National Team attacker and has plenty of MLS experience, so Austin will be leaning on those previous opportunities to put the club into the Western Conference mix.

Key Players

Sebastian Driussi (Argentina) is the club’s newest DP forward and he has plenty of experience in big matches. The former River Plate and Zenit goal scorer can certainly provide a spark up front.

Cecilio Dominguez (Paraguay) was one of the most consistent players for Austin during their debut campaign and they’ll need a strong follow-up performance from the midfielder in 2022.

Kipp Keller (USA) was one of the most-touted college defenders coming out of this year’s MLS SuperDraft and the former St. Louis University center back can add a strong presence at the back alongside newcomer Ruben Gabrielson.

Key Matches in 2022

May 8 vs. LA Galaxy

May 18 at Los Angeles FC

July 30 at Sporting KC

September 10 at Seattle Sounders

Expectations

Austin had a rough go in their debut season, but that’s often the case with expansion teams.

There’s reason to believe Austin will be improved in 2022 given the spine of their squad. A strong midfield, led by Dominguez and Alex Ring, could be the key for Austin if Driussi finds consistency in front goal.

Austin could very well battle for one of the final playoff positions this season if everything goes to plan.

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2022 Atlanta United Season Preview

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and Atlanta United is the first team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

Despite only being in the league since 2017, Atlanta is already estimated as one of the most valuable clubs in MLS based on their attendance numbers and success on the pitch.

Atlanta holds various records for its attendance, owning the entire top 10 for single-game MLS turnouts. That includes a number of matches where the club has drawn over 70,000 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Here’s a closer look at Atlanta United heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

Atlanta finished fifth in the Eastern Conference last season before losing to New York City FC in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Manager

Gonzalo Pineda enters his second season in Atlanta after serving as an assistant with the Seattle Sounders for years. The former Liga MX midfielder is widely respected throughout MLS and he’s hoping to bring the same consistency that Seattle has had for some many years over to Atlanta.

Key Players

Miles Robinson (USA) really came into his own last season and locked down a spot with the USMNT on top of being Atlanta’s best defender.

Luiz Araujo (Brazil) joined Atlanta in 2021 as a Designated Player and there will be huge expectations for him as he aims to provide creativity in the attack alongside the club’s top players.

Josef Martinez (Venezuela) has been one of the top goal scorers in MLS since he joined Atlanta and he can lead the team back to glory if he becomes a 15-plus goals type of player again in 2022.

Key Matches in 2022

March 13 vs. Charlotte FC

July 3 at NYCFC

July 17 vs. Orlando City

August 6 vs. Seattle Sounders

Expectations

Atlanta faces stiff competition once again in the East, but they’ll be hopeful that their attack to find its form from previous seasons in 2022.

Martinez will be very important up front, while Araujo is expected to take another step forward in his first full season in MLS.

Given the quality squad Carlos Bocanegra has built, Atlanta won’t only be expected to make the playoffs but also advance deep into the postseason.