When Gabriel Slonina’s errors cost the Fire a victory May 18 against the host Red Bulls, the young goalkeeper looked distracted. After a highly public courtship, Slonina had been called up to the Polish national team and was pondering whether to see what that program had to offer or go with the United States.
To get the massive choice out of the way, the 18-year-old Slonina committed to the U.S. even though he didn’t have to for another three years per FIFA bylaws.
“Doing it then and clearing my mind a little bit and not having that decision lingering in the background was part of why I made the decision then,” Slonina told the Sun-Times after the Fire’s 1-0 victory last Saturday against D.C. United.
Of course, that isn’t the only career move on the horizon.
Slonina has been linked to a series of overseas heavyweights, most notably England’s Chelsea and Spanish superpower Real Madrid. So as most kids Slonina’s age are preparing for college, he’s being courted by the last two European champions, reportedly for big money.
The Addison product credited agent Jaime Garcia for handling the business side of his career, and as of Saturday, Slonina wasn’t sure how far along the talks are. While Garcia maneuvers to get the best for his client off the field, Slonina mentioned a coping mechanism he has brought up in the past that helps him perform on the pitch.
“The meditation I do I think helps a lot [with] staying present, staying in the moment, because if I don’t play well here then all of those offers mean nothing,” said Slonina, who likely would be loaned back to the Fire after any sale. “Personally for me, it’s all about the now, it’s all about the present and [Saturday’s] game was the now, so I think giving my all every single game with this club is what I’m going to continue to do.”
When he committed to the U.S., it arguably turned into that day’s biggest story in American soccer even though coach Gregg Berhalter revealed his roster — without Slonina — for an upcoming international window. This next decision will make similar waves, but Slonina seems to be taking everything in stride while his future is being discussed on two continents.
“Personally, I know that if I let it get to me, then that’s it,” Slonina said. “If you start to live in the future, then you’re not present. You’re not here in the moment, so I don’t think I can perform at my best if I’m thinking about those things that happen, that added stress or pressure to my game.
“If I go into a game thinking that I have to perform at a different level than I’ve been performing at, then I think you start to alter the way you do things and I think for me it’s about just trusting the path I’m on and continuing to put in the work every day.”
NOTE: As expected, defender Wyatt Omsberg had reconstructive surgery Friday on his left foot. The team said a timeline for Omsberg’s return will be determined later.
Omsberg suffered the injury late in the Fire’s 1-0 win last Saturday when he landed awkwardly after jumping for a 50-50 ball.