Chicago Fire goaltender Gabriel Slonina, 18, took to social media on Friday to announce his intention to play for the United States men’s national team. The Polish-born young star American goalkeeper has turned down Czesław Michniewicz’s call-up to the Poland national team for the June international window after being courted by their FA in April in a US Open Cup game against the Omaha Union.
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 games against Grenada and El Salvador, which did not include Slonina.
“Being Polish means working extremely hard, having faith, never accepting a negative answer, going through difficult times and taking care of your family. I love everything about my heritage, from the people, to the food, to cities. I am also extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to play for Poland,” Slonina said in his statement. “That being said, my heart is American. This country has given me and my family every opportunity I could ask for. It has pushed and supported me through the good and the bad. I understand the privilege to wear the badge, and the only time I’ll bow my head is to kiss it America is my home and that’s what I’m going to represent.
Although not included in this list, it makes sense for Slonina to get ahead and publicize his decision in a bid to represent the United States on the road. More importantly, the decision cleared doubts over his future while staying in Chicago to address issues in his game that have seen the team concede 15 goals in the past five games. This comes after a blistering start where Chicago conceded just two goals in the first seven games.
Berhalter had a nuanced response on the ups and downs Slonina had in the recruitment process, revealing an ‘open conversation’ he had with the goalkeeper. “I talked to him about where we see him. We’ve had him in three camps, haven’t we? I was really impressed with Gaga’s state of mind. … I said, ‘I can’t bring you to this camp because of your form’ and I just can’t do it,” Berhalter said at his press conference after the roster was announced. “”We We have some really top guys and some experienced guys who have played for us before and your form hasn’t been good enough and I can understand if you’re going to take a look at Poland because you’re disappointed with that”. And you know, his response was great. He understands where he is. He’ll work his way out of where he is, but he’s still committed to us and that’s all you could hear.
Chicago’s defensive struggles aren’t all about Slonina per se, but the time to clear our heads over the summer could be good after struggling to choose between two national teams. He will also have other decisions to make about his future after being linked with Chelsea and other top European sides, all eyeing his potential as one of the next great goalkeepers.