Folarin Balogun shows why he's the new USMNT phenomenon

The youngster stood out in the win against Bolivia and hopes to be a game-changer for the US national team
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Carmen Mandato/USSF/GettyImages

Folarin Balogun is going all out for the 2024 Copa America, determined to lead the USMNT attack and make a difference on home soil. Ahead of the tournament, he spoke about his readiness for the challenge and his desire to be a real game-changer for the team. And, lo and behold, he didn't disappoint in the USA's opener against Bolivia, scoring a crucial goal in a 2-0 win.

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Balogun, coming off a mixed season with AS Monaco, where he scored eight goals and provided seven assists after a €30 million transfer from Arsenal, had high expectations for himself. He knew he could do more, and his honesty about the Monaco campaign showed that.

"It taught me resilience. I always felt I had resilience, but being at Monaco, especially playing in the league with expectations, taught me that things take time and that I need to believe in myself," he expressed.

This resilience was evident in his performance against Bolivia. Although not at his best, Balogun grew into the game and led the attacking line for Gregg Berhalter's men effectively. His goal just before half-time, the result of a well-timed run and a sublime shot, underlined his value to the team.

"I think it was a good moment. We wanted to create some security after Pulisic's early goal. We knew that a second goal would put us in a more comfortable position," said Balogun.

The confidence he gained from that goal is invaluable. "It allows me to gain momentum. I'm not going to back down. As a striker, when you're in a tournament of this magnitude, you just want to hit that goal and gain confidence. I feel I was able to do that today. That puts me in a good mental position for the future," he added.

With his pace, movement and physical presence, Balogun poses a constant threat to opponents. His ability to be a useful reference point for his teammates highlights why he is so valuable. Berhalter's decision to give him first-team football was justified, with Balogun stepping up at key moments to make his mark.

"Gregg has always given me the confidence to do what I naturally do," explained Balogun. "He's telling the boys to find me. Jedi (Antonee Robinson) hit a good ball. Gio (Reyna) naturally looks for back passes. I have a good relationship with a lot of the boys and I feel it's only a matter of time before I show that," he said.

With the Copa America off to a flying start and Balogun showing that he is an essential member of the team, the next challenge will be to maintain that form throughout the tournament. Knowing that there is strong competition for places in his position, now is the time for him to continue to excel, just as he did in his debut. The win over Bolivia was just the beginning. Balogun is ready to show his worth and lead the USMNT to success.