CHICAGO — Twenty-five miles northwest of Soldier Field is Chicago Fire FC goalie Gaga Slonina’s hometown of Addison, Illinois, where he lives with his dad and older brother, just a few blocks from where he grew up.

The 18-year-old’s tidy bedroom looks like a shrine to self-improvement: there’s a vision board that outlines his goals and values and dozens of inspirational quotes adorning the walls.

“It’s motivating for me. I love having these things up in my room,” Slonina said. “When I wake up, I try to read one of the posters.”

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That wake-up call is 5:30 in the morning after an 8 p.m. bedtime on non-gamedays. 

“The first thing I do is take a cold shower,” Slonina said. “Have to. To wake myself up.”

Then it’s a 10-to-15-minute meditation and journaling.

“I do a lot of journaling. I think I’m on my 14th journal, planning days out, watching film and taking notes,” Slonina said. 

The work Gaga puts in jumps from the page to the pitch. The 6’4”, 195-pounder blends physical traits with mental fortitude to dominate in the net, recording 16 clean sheets in 43 career starts for the Fire.

Slonina joined the Fire youth academy at 10 years old. At 14, he became the second youngest player in major league soccer history to sign a professional contract.

“It was the first club I had that had a specific goalkeeper trainer,” Slonina said. “I think I got much better with the ball at my feet.”

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The homegrown star soon became a hot commodity in the eyes of several clubs across the pond. After a summer of speculation, Slonina put pen to paper in August, joining Premier League power Chelsea for a 15-million-dollar transfer fee, a Fire record.

How has the teen’s life changed since he signed with Chelsea?

“It’s changed a lot. Life changing,” he said. “To say I’m a player for Chelsea, it’s unbelievable. It proves that if you put in the hard work, you can go anywhere.”

Slonina says he is “super comfortable” in Addison but looks forward to being uncomfortable in order to grow.

“That’s when true character shows, so I’m super excited.”

As Gaga gets ready to leave home, is there anything he misses about just being a regular teenager?

“Nah, man. This is the life,” he said. “I Wouldn’t trade it for anything.”