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Folarin Balogun Nations League Preview: A Debut and First Impressions?

Folarin Balogun Nations League Preview

PREVIEW – The 2023 Concacaf Nations League is here. The United States Men’s National Team play their semifinal against Mexico tonight at 10 PM ET. The winner plays the winner of Canada vs Panama in the final on Sunday. The losers of the two matches will meet in the third place game, also on Sunday. Folarin Balogun is with the United States for the first time since declaring for the nation. What could his Nations League look like and what will it mean for him going forward?

Folarin Balogun Nations League Preview: A Debut and First Impressions?

Let’s start with the fact that it’s Balogun’s first callup. He’s spent the last two years on loan from Arsenal to Middlesborough and Reims in France. So he’s probably familiar with Team Weah. He’s new to the rest of his teammates. His main competition at center forward will be Ricardo Pepi, who had some individual success with Gronigen, but is more of a known quantity internationally. New interim coach B.J. Callaghan would not say if Balogun was starting tonight. One has to imagine though that he’ll play in both of these games and start at least one.

READ MORE: Big Takeaways From the USMNT Nations League Roster

Balogun has to be excited to be in the camp and playing alongside the likes of Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, etc. It’ll be interesting to see what chemistry he builds this week given both the United States and Mexico are in flux. Other than Tyler Adams, the young corps that elevated the USMNT back to the World Cup is here but the coaching search is ongoing and uncertain. Balogun will want to put in good performances, even score a goal, to impress his future permanent manager. El Tri have the coaching situation figured out for now but that federation have work to do for this World Cup cycle.

This isn’t like the 2021 Nations League where it was a preamble to World Cup Qualification. It feels like we’re still waiting for the next World Cup cycle to start because of the coaching search. Balogun is the one big new thing about this competition from the United States. That means more attention and excitement around what he does this week. Scoring the winning goal on Sunday is one way he can earn and warrant that hype.

READ MORE: The USMNT got their guy. What does Folarin Balogun brings to table?

Short of not being played or playing as poorly as the worst of Pepi during qualification, he’ll still be seen in a positive light. If he plays well and helps lead the USMNT to another Nations League title, he has to be seen as the top choice for starting center forward by the new permanent coach come the fall.

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