Gaga Slonina opts for USMNT engagement to Poland but is not called up for June international window

On Friday, Chicago Fire goaltender Gabriel Slonina, 18, took to social media to announce his intention to play for the United States men’s national team. The US youth star with Polish roots turned down Czesław Michniewicz’s call to Poland national team for June’s international match after he was wooed by his federation in a US Open Cup match against Union Omaha in April.

Slonina’s announcement comes minutes before Gregg Berhalter announced his 27-man USMNT squad for June’s friendlies against Uruguay and Morocco, and for the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador, in which Slonina was absent .

“Being Polish means working extremely hard, having faith, never taking no for an answer, going through tough times and caring for your family. I love everything about my heritage, from the people to the food to to the cities. I’m also very grateful that I got the opportunity to play for Poland,” Slonina said in his statement. “My heart is American. This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could wish for. It pushed me and supported me through good and bad. I understand the privilege of wearing the badge and the only time I bow my head is to kiss it. America is home and I will represent that.

Despite not being included in this squad, it makes sense for Slonina to step ahead and announce his decision to represent USA later. Most importantly, the decision allayed doubts about his future while also remaining in Chicago to work out the weaknesses in his game that caused the team to concede 15 goals in their last five games. This comes after a stellar start that saw Chicago concede just two goals in their first seven games.

Berhalter had a nuanced response to the ups and downs Slonina experienced in the recruitment process, revealing a “candid conversation” he had with the keeper. “I spoke to him about where we see him. We had him in three camps, right? I was really impressed by Gaga’s mindset. … I said, ‘I can’t put you in this camp because of your form,’ and I just can’t,” Berhalter said in his press conference after the squad announcement. “‘We have guys at a really high level and experienced guys who’ve been there before played for us and their form wasn’t good enough and I can understand when you look at Poland because you’re disappointed with that’. And you know his reaction was great. He understands where he is. He’s getting there working to get out of his position but he’s still committed to us and that’s all you could hear.

Chicago’s defensive struggles aren’t just down to Slonina per se, but time to clear his head in the summer could well be after he struggled to choose between two national teams. He will also have to make more decisions about his future after being linked with Chelsea and other big sides in Europe with everyone eyeing his potential as one of the next great goalkeepers. Gaga Slonina opts for USMNT engagement to Poland but is not called up for June international window

Justin Scacco

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