The moment of solidarity follows Russia’s invasion of the neighboring European country, with professional soccer players around the world using their platforms to speak out against violence.
“I think there are bigger things outside of soccer and families that need to be kept safe,” the 17-year-old said postgame. “So it's about putting as much awareness and support as we can into this matter right now.”
The message came after Slonina’s fifth shutout in 12 MLS games, his four saves preserving a road point to start the Ezra Hendrickson era. It’s the latest example of why he’s generated widespread interest from top European clubs, and even drawn comparisons to Italian goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon earlier this offseason.
Slonina’s also a rising US men’s national team prospect, getting called in for their winter window Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. He holds a Polish passport as well, providing a personal connection to what’s unfolding in Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities.
“I have family in Poland, so it's pretty close to their home,” Slonina said. “I want to make sure that they are safe as well and the quicker that there could be no war, and love and peace in the world, they can stay safe and there's less stress and worry about their safety and everything.”
While Hendrickson hadn’t seen Slonina's undershirt as of his press conference, the news came as no surprise to the former Columbus Crew assistant coach.
“Gaga, he is a 17-year-old, but he's got the mind of a 30-year-old,” Hendrickson said. “He's a very conscious individual. I didn't see his shirt or the writing, but I expect stuff like that from him. He's very conscious about world events and what's going on around him in society. Very, very, very experienced 17-year-old as far as his mindset.”
Earlier Saturday, the Polish national team also announced they will not face Russia in an upcoming UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff match as final Qatar 2022 places are determined. The boycott includes several MLS players, with The White and Reds home to Charlotte FC striker Karol Swiderski and New England Revolution striker Adam Buksa.