Gaga Slonina opts for USMNT over Poland: "My heart is American"

Well, that settles that.

Three days after Poland named him to their UEFA Nations League roster, Chicago Fire FC homegrown goalkeeper Gaga Slonina has committed his international future to the US men’s national team.

The 18-year-old dual-national was yet to appear for either country’s senior squad, and now has settled concerns stateside of which way he’d go – especially with Poland actively recruiting him.

“My heart is American,” Slonina wrote in a social media post. “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.”

Slonina is regarded as one of the top goalkeeping prospects worldwide, strengthening a USMNT position that counts Matt Turner (joining Arsenal) and Zack Steffen (Manchester City) as its chief options. Sean Johnson (NYCFC) and Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) have been among the backups under manager Gregg Berhalter.

Slonina has featured in two senior camps for the country of his birth, namely their ​​Concacaf World Cup qualifying roster in the January/February 2022 window. He’s also featured extensively for US youth national teams.

The Fire’s teenage star could play his way onto the USMNT’s Qatar 2022 World Cup roster, with the team six months out from entering Group B play. Poland, who count Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus) as their starting goalkeeper, are also heading to the World Cup.

After becoming Chicago's starting goalkeeper late in the 2021 campaign, Slonina's enjoyed a meteoric rise that's prompted widespread interest from top European clubs.

Slonina not in June camp

Shortly after Slonina made his announcement, the USMNT officially released their 27-player roster for the June window of Nations League games and friendlies.

Slonina wasn't among the three goalkeepers called in, though Berhalter made clear that he's a big part of the program's future. The goalkeeper's going through a dip in form as Chicago's 2022 season unfolds.

"We have guys at really high levels and experienced guys that played for us before, and [I told him] your form hasn't been good enough," Berhalter relayed. "I can understand if you're going to go take a look at Poland because you're disappointed with this. And his response was great. It was he understands where he's at, he's going to work to get out of where he's at. But he said he's still committed to us and that's all you can hear."

Slonina wrote that he "loves everything about my heritage," but the dual-national landscape is seldom a simple one. His parents are from Poland.

"You make relationships with players, you welcome players to the group – guys make them feel welcome," Berhalter said. "You hope that's enough and at the end of the day they decide. But in Gaga's case also, his heart was telling him where to go. That's a really important part of the equation."