Things just keep getting better and better for Gabriel Slonina.
The Chicago Fire man, of course, recently sealed a record-breaking move to Premier League giants Chelsea and is widely regarded as the best teenage goalkeeper on the planet right now.
In his current form, Slonina is highly likely to make Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT roster for the World Cup later this year before he officially heads to England to begin the next chapter in his short career.
That form continued on Saturday as Slonina put in a nine-save performance to keep a clean sheet in the Fire’s 0-0 draw at the Columbus Crew, keeping the hosts out despite 1.78 xGOT.
To anyone who has watched him closely this year, these sorts of performances are becoming quite standard for Slonina, who now has 12 clean sheets on the 2022 MLS season – only NYCFC’s Sean Johnson has more (13).
“He’s always been a confident goalkeeper. He’s always been a good keeper. Hence, he signed a contract with Chelsea,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said after Saturday’s stalemate in Columbus.
“But he came up with another great performance again. I think that’s his 11th, maybe 12th shutout this year. So you know, we know that he’s a good goalkeeper, and has been good all year for us. So we’re happy to have him.”
In an exclusive interview with 90min last month, shortly after sealing that transfer to Chelsea, Slonina insisted his focus will remain totally on helping the Fire succeed between now and the end of the season.
The 18-year-old has made good on his promise so far and will continue to do so as he tries to help the Fire return to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.
“I mean, for me, it’s obviously about giving my best every single game and obviously just staying in the moment and doing what I can for my team to come out and get the three points,” Slonina replied when asked about his mentality with the Chelsea move approaching. “I think I’m just going to continue to focus on every single match at hand because I think that will, in the end, prepare me for what’s to come.”
Up next for the Fire is a home tie against Inter Miami on Saturday.
Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.
Armando Broja discusses his father’s training methods, inspirations & Albanian pride
Armando Broja has spoken about the tireless hours his family would commit to ensuring he made it as a footballer in his youth, and what it means to be a young star representing Albania on the world stage.
Broja shot to prominence at Southampton last season, on loan from Chelsea. The forward impressed throughout the campaign and returned to west London having scored nine goals in all competitions and racking up 32 Premier League appearances.
Since returning to his parent club, the Albanian international has penned a new long-term contract with Chelsea and been integrated into the first-team, featuring for Thomas Tuchel before his dismissal as head coach.
But the future remains bright for Broja, despite the managerial change, with Graham Potter now in the hot seat.
Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, Broja credited his mentality and ability to thrive under pressure to his family, namely his father, who pushed him throughout his childhood.
“He’s always been so desperate to succeed and for his kids to succeed. Growing up, there wasn’t a minute to waste. Time was the most precious thing to him,” the striker said.
“I remember when I was young and just starting off in football, he’d come home from work late and he’d be exhausted. It might be like 10 or 11 at night and he might’ve worked a 15-hour day, but he’d always ask, ‘Armando, have you done your training today?’”
“Obviously lyin’, I’d be like, ‘Mmm, yes?’” he added: “He’d know the truth, though, and out we’d go to the park and he’d make me run laps. Twenty times around the pitch.”
Broja went further, explaining his father’s detailed eye for his traits and progression: “When I had a growth spurt around 16, he got worried I was gonna lose my speed. Pace had always been one of my biggest strengths. So he took me out to do hill sprints for like an hour at a time.
“I was basically falling down the hill by the end and he’s there standing over me like, ‘Nah, go again. Another one. Defenders gonna catch you.’
“We joke now that my success is 50-50. Half mine, half his and my mum’s. They put in the work you don’t see. In those early years, though, the balance was waaaay more on their side.”
Broja also discussed his inspirations, explaining that his affinity for Brazilian legend Ronaldo came from his father, after he would show him clips on YouTube.
But alongside R9, Broja namedropped Lorik Cana – the first and only Albanian to play in the Premier League before him.
It was this that fuelled his discussion about flying the flag for his nation and what it meant to represent Albania, who he earned his first senior international cap for in 2020.
“There was a moment when the England under-21s wanted me and, yeah, I thought about it and what I wanted for my future, but honestly … I didn’t have to think too long,” he explained: “I grew up in England, but I’m proud to be Albanian.
“Every time I travel for international duty and pull on the red and black I feel this incredible pride and excitement.”
The 21-year-old added, explaining how he relishes the opportunity of being able to shoulder responsibility and expectations at a young age for his country, while also expressing his desire to fire them to a World Cup.
“You can step up and be a star. And if you do well, you can become an icon for eternity. When my career is over, I want my name to live on. For Albania. For my dad.”
Fixture congestion, Robertson injury, training absences
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are gearing up for their first Premier League outing in almost a month when they host Brighton on Saturday.
The Reds sit eighth in the Premier League table after picking up nine points from their opening six games, and a win would only pull them to within a point of the Seagulls who sit fourth heading into the weekend.
Klopp spoke about Trent Alexander-Arnold and his situation within the England squad at length in the presser, but also touched on plenty of other intriguing topics. Here’s what else he had to say.
Which players are unavailable for the game against Brighton?
“Some are still out, that’s Andy Robertson, that’s Curtis Jones, that’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, that’s Naby Keita. Definitely these four [are out].
“Calvin [Ramsay] is training but not ready to play.”
What is the latest on Andy Robertson’s injury?
“Robertson is doing really good so he’s not out too long. He’s already been out too long if you want but now it was the international break, so that helped in his case a little bit.
“He’s out on the pitch running, which is a good sign. I don’t know if it will be next week or the week after, I don’t know.”
What is the latest on Calvin Ramsay?
“He had this issue with the back. We know much more about him as a boy now. Really good.
“He just needs to train, train, train and he will probably play for the Under-21s and he can get a game there because we play now all the time, that’s fine.”
Are Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez available for selection?
“Diaz and Jota? Yes, they came back from the international duty and it’s how it always is [after] a long flight, I didn’t see them yet, I have heard they are good.
“Darwin, [missing training] was a precaution after the games, same for Diogo, that’s it I think.”
What impact will the World Cup have on club football?
“I don’t know how the World Cup will affect the Premier League.
“The boys come back and play a week later. Usually you relax 2-3 weeks then go again.
If you are in the final, you have two days. It’s a really long season.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, but that’s how it is.”
How will Liverpool deal with the upcoming break?
“For us the next six weeks are very important.
“We didn’t have the start we wanted. For explainable and unexplainable reasons. That’s now gone. Here we go, collect points back.”
How has the gap between games affected the squad?
“To have games in hand is not cool but we can’t change it.
“The majority of my players played. We didn’t play but they did. They should be fine. We never look for excuses. This isn’t the moment to think about that.
“Thank god the last game we played against Ajax was a good game. If it had been Napoli, it wouldn’t be a good international break.”
How will Brighton fare with Roberto De Zerbi?
“Brighton did extremely well before and now they have a really exciting new manager.
They have a really brave coach. He’s really influential, his football idea suits Brighton.”
“We don’t know what to expect other than really good team.”
Everton takeover – who are KAM Sports?
Everton are the latest Premier League club to be linked with a big-money takeover from foreign investors, with KAM Sports eyeing up a deal for the Merseyside institution.
Talks have begun over a potential sale by majority owner Farhad Moshiri, though whether he will end up cashing in remains to be seen.
Here’s the information and key figures behind the approach you need to know about.
KAM Sports group describes itself as “a family-owned organisation that is set up to own and manage premier international sports assets.”
The Kaminski family first started a real estate and are based in Minneapolis. They were part of a consortium led by Peter Kenyon that tried to buy Everton earlier this year.
However, those talks ended and Toffees owner Farhad Moshiri then said the club was not for sale.
Is a deal close?
90min understands KAM Sports are back in talks with Everton, though the parties are still far away from reaching a final agreement.
Talks have intensified in recent times following the British pound’s drop against the American dollar, though KAM did release a statement regretting their interest being leaked to the public.
It reads: “As a general principle, we prefer to conduct our business in private to create the fairest environment for those involved – and in this particular situation, to minimize uncertainty for fans of Everton. It is regrettable that this has not been possible.
“We respectfully remain interested in acquiring the club as we believe its fans deserve nothing less than the best, and our offer to achieve this stands. However, in consideration of all Everton fans, we will not be making further public comments at this time.”
Moshiri is not currently thought to be interested in selling Everton. He has pumped £600m into the club since joining in 2016 and his stake sat at 94.1% in January.
However, last season’s awful campaign has damaged his reputation among Toffees supporters while in March the club announced losses of more than £110m for a third straight season.
Appointments like Rafa Benitez – famously a Liverpool legend – were received poorly and incoming signings in recent years have failed to produce.
Maciek Kaminski is an American businessman who is the founder and president of Kaminski Asset Management, Inc. They hold significant influence in the stock exchange, managing funds worth billions.
Born in Poland, Maciek graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Physics.
The Times reported back in June that Kaminski set up a business in February, KAM Sports, to buy a series of sports outfits and media rights, with Everton at the pinnacle. It is claimed that Kaminski would be the majority shareholder and director, while his son, Mikhail, a registered officer of KAM Sports, which is the investment vehicle for the takeover, would also have a seat on the board.
He is said to have amassed an estimated personal wealth of around $1bn, though the family hold no experience of running sports teams.
Mikhail Kaminski is the son of Maciek and a registered officer of KAM Sports. If the takeover is successfully completed, he would have a seat on the board.
Peter Kenyon is a businessman who has previously served as the chief executive at Manchester United and Chelsea.
Kenyon is a controversial figure, having been implicated alongside Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes in breaching FIFA regulations on third-party ownership and conflict of interest in player representation.
He led the consortium in a bid to buy Everton earlier this year.
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