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The 2022 season for goalkeeper Chris Brady showed an incredible amount of promise for the 18-year-old Fire homegrown.

A native of Naperville, Ill., Brady began with the Club as a member of the Chicago Fire Academy in 2017. Since his arrival, he’s been no stranger to the team’s pathway of development for young talent over the years.

Having been a constant for the U.S. Men’s Youth National Team since he was 14 years old, Brady’s rapid growth in the net gave the Fire a trust that the goalkeeper position was one of the strongest parts of the team’s pipeline.

Brady had piqued the interest of the Fire front office and coaching staff from a very young age, and as a result, was signed out of the Academy to a homegrown deal in March of 2020. After showing glimpses of raw talent, the goalkeeper found himself playing on loan for Forward Madison FC, the then-USL affiliate of the Club, just days after signing his deal.

While in Madison, he collected valuable playing time and victories. Brady even claimed some individual hardware, winning 2020 USL Young Player of the Year, the award given to the most outstanding player under the age of 21.

En route to his award winning season, he recorded three clean sheets in only eight appearances, which was good for fourth in the entire league, as well as 19 saves.

His goals-against-average of 0.75 was second best in the league, but there was something even more incredible about this fantastic season…

Brady was only 16 years old.

As Gaga Slonina was taking Major League Soccer by storm back in Chicago, Brady too was creating a name for himself in professional soccer. 

Then in late 2021, Major League Soccer announced the launch of MLS NEXT Pro, a developmental league that would showcase the promising rise of young talent within the United States and Canada.

A few months later, Chicago Fire FC II was born. It’s starting goalkeeper: a dynamic, game-changing keeper from the Chicago suburbs that gave the Fire a chance to win every weekend.

In 12 games for Fire II this past season, Brady only conceded 10 goals. His expected goals conceded average was 17.8. A shocking difference that showed just how strong he was when he was starting.

Additionally, he tallied 45 saves in those 12 games, and secured five clean sheets, good for a save percentage of .818% and five victories for Chicago’s MLS NEXT Pro team.

While people expected Brady to be in the running for Most Valuable Player, Brady’s calm and humble demeanor was focused on improving and being the best player he could be.

“Personally, I’ve felt good. I don’t think I’m MVP-quality quite yet, but it’s good. Like I said earlier, most of the good stats that you read under my name are team stats,” Brady said. “I’m not too excited about any awards like that, but hopefully, sometime in the future.”

His amazing play did however land him a contract extension through 2027. 

The 19th homegrown in franchise history had left his mark, and earned his way to stay in a Fire uniform for a few more years to come. 

“We’ve seen tremendous growth from Chris over the last two years,” said Fire Sporting Director Georg Heitz. “During his time on loan with Forward Madison and more recently with our CFFC II team, and we believe that he has a very bright future with the Fire.”

With fellow ‘keeper Slonina heading to Chelsea, Brady was ready to make the next step in his young career.

In a fast moving couple of weeks, Brady found himself with both a new deal and the starting job for Chicago Fire FC II. It was only right that the stage was set for the rising star to make his mark on the international stage. 

At the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Brady found himself suiting up for the United States once again. Playing up an age group, the 18-year-old started in six games for the red, white, and blue at the tournament.

Cementing himself as the starter on the U-20 roster, Brady didn’t concede a single goal in his six appearances - an incredible stretch where Brady willed the United States to an Olympic qualification in 2024, and a berth to play in the U-20 FIFA World Cup. Brady is eligible to play in both.

“I try to make an imprint and get my name out there and play to the best of my ability,” Brady said to the  media. “I feel like myself, as well as this whole squad down in Honduras, have done a very good job of that. Overall, this whole experience has been a blast, and there’s more to come.”

More to come indeed. 

It all came full circle when the U.S. U-20s defeated the Dominican Republic 6-0 to clinch the U-20 CONCACAF gold medal in Honduras. 

On top of the gold, Brady clinched Golden Glove honors for his spectacular play in the net, and showcased the promise and skill within the Fire pipeline on the international stage.

Being a member of the Fire pipeline for years, Brady has grown alongside some of Chicago’s talented young core including Brian Gutiérrez, Sergio Oregel, Alex Monis, and Javier Casas. As the years have gone on, the youngsters have remained close, and have fed off of each other's success. Brady’s golden trip to Honduras was no different. 

“It's been great, knowing that I have all the love and support of everyone back home. I retweeted a few of them. It's just good to see. I know if they were in this position, I would be doing the same.” Brady said.

It all came full circle a few short months later.

On Oct. 9, 2022, the youth of Chicago Fire FC made their mark in a 1-1 draw against New England that saw Brady make his Major League Soccer debut.

On top of that, Oregel made his debut, and Monis tallied a late finish to record his first career goal. Get used to reading those names.

A testament to years of development and scouting for the Fire Academy, it was a real highlight of the 2022 season to see the kids make a meaningful impact in competitive play. 

Brady had left his mark, impressing both fans and the coaching staff by leaving a glimpse of who could be the next No. 1 for the Chicago Fire. 

“I think you could tell from his performance today and his performance all year with the second team that the kid is ready to make that move.” said Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson following his debut. “There will be competition, but Brady showed today that he's ready if called upon."

Looking ahead to 2023, Chicago finds itself in a great position in the goalkeeping department. Brady is a young talent with all the tools necessary to make his mark immediately for the Fire.

With experience and momentum in his favor, the Naperville native is primed and in position to take over the reins from Gaga Slonina.

The stage is set for Chicago’s next great goalkeeper to break into Major League Soccer. 

Remember the name Chris Brady, Chicago. He’s got next.