The Chicago Fire are blessed to possess two of the United States’ foremost young talents. Goalkeeper Chris Brady and midfielder Brian Gutiérrez are both locked in starters for their hometown club and essential pieces for a team competing for a playoff berth.
That is both a blessing and a curse. Because of their importance to the Fire first team, they have rarely been permitted by the club to travel for international duty and wear the red, white, and blue uniform of the United States. Most notably, neither Brady nor Gutiérrez were made available for the FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this year, in which the U.S. reached the quarterfinals.
This time, however, it is not the case. Brady and Gutiérrez were both called in for the first camp of the new U-23 cycle, building towards the 2024 Olympic team. The U.S. team coached by ex-Fire assistant Marko Mitrović, set to play friendlies against Mexico and Japan next week in Phoenix, Arizona, contains many up-and-coming American players on the fringes of the national team pool, including the Fire’s two homegrown starlets.
Numerous players were withheld from this camp by their clubs, including but not limited to Gaga Slonina (Eupen), Josh Wynder (Benfica), Jonathan Gómez (Mirandés), Matthew Hoppe, and Cade Cowell (both San Jose). Unlike in previous youth camps, Brady and Gutiérrez are not among that group.
“(Making the Olympic team) is a big goal of mine,” Gutiérrez said last season, shortly after the U.S. team, led by Chris Brady, qualified for the Paris games. “If I get the call-up, it’s an honor… we haven’t made the Olympics since 2008.”
With his stellar play, “Guti” has not just earned his U-23 call-up, but he’s also knocking on the door of Gregg Berhalter’s senior USMNT. In joining this U.S. team, it will be his first national team camp since the pre-World Cup camp in November 2022. The U-23 appearance will be a big boost for the national team dreams of the 20-year-old, who shared his disappointment earlier this year when he wasn’t allowed to join up with the U-20s for their World Cup.
Brady, on the other hand, was directly involved in the United States’ qualification for the Olympics. He won the Golden Glove at the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which served as the Olympic qualifier, and has described next summer’s event as a “huge motivator.” The 19-year-old has been statistically one of the top goalkeepers in MLS this season, so breaking into the senior national team in the near future is also not an unrealistic goal.
With just one all-important game left in the MLS season, the Olympic camp will be a great opportunity for Brady and Guti to regroup and prepare for the final clash on October 21st. They’ll play alongside some of the other top young players in the U.S. system and compete in competitive matches against two other strong national teams in Mexico and Japan.
For both of the two young stars, this is only the beginning. If everything goes according to plan, Brady and Guti should play in future World Cups, Copa Américas, and Gold Cups, and this Olympic camp grants both of them an incredible opportunity to represent their country.