Gaga Slonina: “My heart is American. This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could ask for.”  (Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

There weren’t any games on Friday, but the U.S. men’s national team secured an important victory, nonetheless.

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gaga Slonina picked the USA over Poland.

The 18-year-old, who has Polish roots turned down Czesław Michniewicz’s call-up to the Poland national team for the June international window.

“Being Polish means being extremely hard working, having faith, never taking no for an answer, pushing through hard times, and taking care of your family. I love everything about my heritage, from the people to the food, to the cities. I am also extremely grateful for being given the possibility to play for Poland,” Slonina said in a statement.

“With that being said, my heart is American. 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.”

While he is committed to the USA, Slonina wasn’t called up to the national team for its June window of four matches.

Slonina has attended three national team camps and has yet to play for the USA.

Berhalter said that he had “an honest conversation” with Slonina prior to Friday’s Zoom conference call with the media.

“I said, ‘Listen, I can’t bring you to this camp because of your form. I just can’t do it,” Berhalter said. “‘ We have guys at really high levels and and experienced guys that played for us before. Your form hasn’t been good enough. And I can understand if you’re going to take a look at Poland, because you’re disappointed with this.’ ”

“His response was great. 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.”

While showing much promise, Slonina has struggled this season, particularly recently. He allowed a goal to go through his hands in the wild 3-3 draw with the Red Bulls last Saturday. Slonina has a 1.33 goals-against average in 12 matches with five shutouts.

“I’ve been I’ve been really impressed with Gaga, that just his mindset, if you can imagine an 18-year-old being that determined,” Berhalter said.

“You make relationships with players. You welcome players with the group. Guys make them feel welcome. You help. That’s enough. But in the end of the day, they decide but in Gaga’s, his heart was telling him where to go. That’s a really important part of the equation.”