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Slonina focused on improving after breakout 2021

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At an age where most 17-year-olds are focused on their driver’s license or college decisions, Gabriel Slonina was taking part in his first U.S. men’s national team camp, training alongside MLS Cup-winner Sean Johnson and USMNT regular and Arsenal transfer target Matt Turner.

Slonina’s first national team camp followed his breakout 2021 season, which included him making his professional debut and finishing the MLS season as the Chicago Fire’s starting goalkeeper. The teenager did well enough to earn a second call-up, as the fourth goalkeeper on Gregg Berhalter’s list for the World Cup qualifiers in January and February.

“The national team experience was was absolutely incredible,” said Slonina. “Seeing how the guys act on and even off the field was something that I took into account every single day I’m and just trying to learn from from everyone there.”

Born in Addison, Illinois to Polish parents, Slonina has been a staple on multiple U.S. Youth National Team levels but has not appeared in a senior match for the USMNT, and he is still eligible to represent the Polish national team, which has expressed interest in one of the brightest talents in MLS and the best young goalkeeper in the USMNT pipeline.

“Right now the main focus is about this preseason and finishing preseason strong so I’m not the type of player to look too much into the future,” said Slonina when asked about his national team preference.

Changes in FIFA rules regarding young players eligible for multiple countries mean that Slonina wouldn’t be automatically cap-tied by a single appearance for either national team, but his status as a dual national has led the USMNT to bring him in for camps at a young age in similar fashion to midfielder Yunus Musah, another talented teenager who had national team options before eventually choosing to represent the United States.

One thing the USMNT camps have done for Slonina is expose him to the best players in the national team pool, letting him see just how far he still has to go.

“I think I can improve on everything,” Slonina said. ” My shot-stopping ability, my decision making, my calmness on the ball. I’ve talked with the coaching staff from there about specific things I want to work on, but all in all, it’s about improving everything.”

An impressive run as the Fire’s starter in 2021 has led to the inevitable links to a move to Europe for Slonina, but he is firmly focused on the upcoming MLS season, which he will begin as the Fire’s unquestioned first-choice goalkeeper. That is a status that Slonina isn’t letting get to his head. He knows his career is just beginning, and he has yet to reach his best level.

“I think I still have a lot to prove,” Slonina said. “I don’t I don’t like to think of me as the number one starter now. I still have to get my own training every single day and make sure that I’m putting on performances, and training as well as possible to continue to prove that I could have that number one spot.”

Comments

  1. I know a couple keeper coaches. They say this guy is the best young talent they’ve ever seen, will easily be better than Steffen or Turner in a few years…and that we absolutely need to hold onto him. They think he’ll be starting for a Champions League caliber team by the time he’s 20.

    Reply
    • “better than Steffen or Turner in a few years…and that we absolutely need to hold onto him….he’ll be starting for a Champions League caliber team by the time he’s 20.

      Lets say that happens and he is the starter in 2026.

      That is great and is one less thing to worry about. However, it’s not a massive improvement to the USMNT as a whole. The USMNT has had legit world class keepers before.

      The only reason that there is so much talk about the keeper positions lately is because there are two #1’s and that usually results in a lot of back and forth.

      There is little to choose between Zack and Matt assuming both are healthy and in form. Odds are Zack starts in Qatar and plays every single minute, barring injury.

      In the games in March and if we get to Qatar the keeper position is the very last position I am worried about. What they need is the equivalent of Slonina at the striker or attacking midfield position. That would really be exciting.

      Matt and Zack are flawed but they’ll do in a pinch and have both shown an ability to raise their games for the USMNT when it matters.

      Reply

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