Soccer

Gaga Slonina chooses USMNT commitment over Poland, but is not called up for June international window

On Friday, Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina, 18, took to social media to announce his intentions to play for the United States men’s national team. The star U.S. youth keeper with Polish roots turned down Czesław Michniewicz’s call-up to the Poland national team for the June international window after being courted by their FA back in April in a U.S. Open Cup match against Union Omaha.

Slonina’s announcement came minutes before Gregg Berhalter revealed his 27-man USMNT squad for June friendlies against Uruguay and Morocco, and 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador, which did not include Slonina.   

“Being Polish means being extremely hard working, having faith, never taking no for an answer, pushing through hard times, and taking care of your family. I love everything about my heritage, from the people to the food, to the cities. I am also extremely grateful for being given the possibility to play for Poland,” Slonina said in his statement. “With that being said, my heart is American. This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could ask for. It’s pushed me and supported me through good and bad. I understand the privilege of wearing the badge, and the only time I’ll put my head down is to kiss it. America is home and that’s who I’m going to represent.”

Despite not being included in this roster, it makes sense for Slonina to get ahead of it and make his decision known in an effort to represent the U.S. down the road. Most importantly, the decision clear up doubt over his future while also staying in Chicago to work out the kinks in his game that have seen the team concede 15 goals in the last five matches. This comes after a stellar start where Chicago only conceded two goals in the first seven games. 

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Berhalter had a nuanced answer about the ups and downs Slonina experienced in the recruitment process, revealing an “open conversation” he had with the goalkeeper. “I talked to him about where we see him. We had him in three camps, right? I’ve been really impressed with Gaga’s mindset. … I said, ‘I can’t bring you into this camp because of your form’ and I just can’t do it,” Berhalter said in his post-roster announcement press conference. “‘We have guys at really high levels and experienced guys that played for us before and your form hasn’t been good enough and I can understand if you’re gonna go take a look at Poland because you’re disappointed with this’. And you know, his response was great. He understands where he’s at. He’s gonna work to get out of where he’s at, but he’s still committed to us and that’s all you could hear.”

Chicago’s defensive struggles aren’t all on Slonina per se, but the time to clear his head during the summer could be good after struggling to choose between two national teams. He will also have further decisions to make on his future after having been linked to Chelsea and other big sides in Europe, all monitoring his potential as one of the next great goalkeepers.

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