Interim U.S. men’s national team head coach B.J. Callaghan will have several players excited to prove their worth during the upcoming Concacaf Nations League Final Four, but none of them might be more excited than Folarin Balogun.
Balogun, who committed his future to the USMNT earlier this May, was called up to Callaghan’s 24-player roster on Thursday for the first time since his international switch. The Arsenal loanee has excelled on loan in France’s Ligue 1 this season, scoring 21 combined goals for Stade Reims and providing a positive glimpse of his long-term potential.
Balogun joins Ricardo Pepi as the only other natural striker in the current roster, with both of them delivering positive European seasons abroad. After choosing to represent the United States over England and Nigeria, Balogun sounds ready to do everything he can to help the USMNT repeat as Nations League winners later this month.
“I can tell you that his commitment to the U.S. is unwavering,” Callaghan told media on Thursday of Balogun. “He’s excited to come in with the group. He’s someone that I spoke to about embracing the brotherhood that we have. It’s a welcoming environment. The guys are going to welcome him in. They’re all excited and he’s excited.
“But at the same time I challenged him and I said, ‘listen, you have to put yourself out there and you have to integrate with the group,” Callaghan added. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to integrate you. And at the same time, it’s your responsibility on the field and off the field to become part of this group as quick as we can.’ We have a lot of case studies of guys that have come in and it’s been super successful and I expect nothing different with [Balogun].”
Balogun last represented the United States close to five years ago, featuring for the Under-18 national team before then playing for England at several youth national team levels. A former Arsenal academy product, Balogun’s stellar goalscoring form in France not only caught the eye of the USMNT, but also several European clubs who aim to acquire him this summer.
The USMNT will certainly hope Balogun can hit the ground running and solidify a No. 9 position that has featured many hopeful challengers. Balogun, Pepi, Haji Wright, and Josh Sargent all delivered double-digit goals this season in Europe, with Balogun and Pepi both doing so on loan from their respective parent clubs.
It remains to be seen how Callaghan decides to use Balogun this June in the Nations League, but the excitement surrounding him and the program continues to grow with only 14 days left until the semifinal showdown vs. Mexico.