A couple of days before our conversation on the rooftop of the U.S. men’s national team's hotel by the shimmering Redondo Beach marina in Southern California, Gabriel Slonina made history.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Slonina said about his start in the U.S.'s January friendly against Serbia. “I had Tony Meola actually reach out to me and just congratulate me on being the youngest [goalie] to debut for the national team.”
The 18 year-old goalkeeper, nicknamed “Gaga”, has the potential to join the pantheon of American goalkeeping legends like Meola, Tim Howard, and Brad Friedel, if not eclipse them all. In addition to his shot-stopping and physical tools, he has a maturity that belies his age, a professionalism that his coaches and teammates constantly commend. It’s noticeable. It’s reflexive.