Fire goalie Gabriel Slonina picks U.S. over Poland

In a social-media post explaining his decision, Slonina said, “My heart is American.”

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Goalie Gabriel Slonina has pledged his future to the United States.

Courtesy of the Fire

Gabriel Slonina has made his decision. He’s going with the U.S. men’s national team.

Slonina, 18, announced Friday on social media that he’s committing to the United States over Poland. A dual national, Slonina was recently named to Poland’s roster for its upcoming UEFA Nations League games but has chosen to cast his lot with the U.S. program. Poland clearly wanted Slonina. Coach Czesław Michniewicz even traveled to Chicago to meet with him and present him a jersey.

Those overtures were rejected, however, and Slonina explained why. Though he discussed his pride in his heritage and what it means to be Polish, Slonina said, “My heart is American.”

“This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could ask for,” Slonina posted. “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.”

Because of his age, FIFA rules allow Slonina to play in three games for a national team before being bound to a country. The Addison native, however, has made the call now, silencing questions about his direction.

Now that he has committed to the United States, Slonina is part of a crowded goalkeeping picture that includes Manchester City’s Zack Steffen, the Revolution’s Matt Turner (who will join English club Arsenal this summer) and former Fire standout Sean Johnson, the captain of reigning MLS Cup champion New York City FC. Poland also is strong in net, led by Wojciech Szczesny, the starter for Italian powerhouse Juventus.

But some other decisions await Slonina, who has represented the United States at youth levels. He has been linked with major European clubs, and with their transfer windows opening soon, the young goalie might be forced to decide between famous teams in the near future.

Slonina’s recent play for the Fire has raised questions about whether those outside factors have taken a toll. Last Saturday, Slonina’s late giveaway led to the Fire’s 2-1 loss to FC Cincinnati. Then on Wednesday against the Red Bulls, Slonina whiffed on an easy save for New York’s second goal, overcommitted on a stoppage-time equalizer and could’ve easily given away a penalty after making contact with an attacker in the Fire box.

After the draw with the Red Bulls, coach Ezra Hendrickson was asked if the external noise was affecting Slonina’s concentration. 

“Maybe outside of the game, but in the game, I don’t think he’s thinking about all that stuff,’’ Hendrickson said. ‘‘He just happened to make some mistakes.

‘‘You know, we all make mistakes as soccer players, and it just happens to be that in his position, your mistakes are more dangerous, are more costly than someone missing a goal or something like that. But he’ll get out of it, and we’ll make sure that he stays positive and stays confident.”

Perhaps that will be easier for Slonina with one major decision out of the way.

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