Ever since forward Folarin Balogun committed to play for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), expectations around the 21-year-old have been sky-high. He scored 21 goals in Ligue 1 with Stade de Reims last season, and many USMNT fans are hoping for him to replicate his club success with the USMNT.
But Balogun does not let the pressure get to him. He believes his internal expectations are greater than the ones of his supporters.
“There has been a lot of noise surrounding me coming… I’m used to the pressure playing at Arsenal and having that expectation of yourself. The pressure I have for myself is internal, so what I hear outside is never going to be more than what I expect for myself,” said Balogun last Friday.
Balogun will be thrown in the deep end immediately with the USMNT as they face Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Semi-Final. But he is embracing the opportunity.
“Mexico and the US have a big rivalry. I am looking forward to it. And, of course, there will be no better way to introduce myself than playing against a big opposition when it matters,” Balogun said.
Balogun’s main competition now is forward Ricardo Pepi, who plays his club games with FC Augsburg. Pepi said last week he plans to use the competition with Balogun to better himself on the field.
USMNT head coach B.J. Callaghan declined to comment to reporters on Wednesday on whether Balogun would start against Mexico but mentioned he is integrating well with the team. Balogun has enjoyed his teammates’ company, playing golf and having dinner with them.
He joined the team during their camp in Los Angeles, starting training on June 7.
“[My teammates] are all really friendly,” Balogun said. “They have made me feel welcome. I have been out for dinner with a few of them.”
Balogun was recruited by former interim head coach Anthony Hudson when in Orlando. They spoke over dinner as Hudson described his vision for the USMNT’s future.
“We came together with my family and decided it would be the right thing for me. The country I was born in. It was something I wanted to do, and it feels like I am at home [in the United States],” said Balogun when he first committed to the USMNT.
Now with Balgoun on the team, the USMNT will face Mexico at 7 p.m. on Thursday with his debut potentially incoming.