The dual national press is on for Folarin Balogun. The Reims striker is able to represent England, Nigeria and the United States, and the latter have a huge need for a striker. After the United States interim head coach Anthony Hudson said that there is an open dialog between his camp and the national team, things have heated up over the past few days. Not only has Balogun left England youth camp without being injured but his Arsenal teammate Matt Turner is also speaking out about how great of an addition Balogun would make to the team.
"I spoke to Flo. We obviously had most of our preseason together, and I knew going into it he had some roots in U.S.," Turner said during media availability. "So he and I developed a relationship pretty quickly. That's pretty much the extent of it. We check in on each other here and there. He'd be a great addition to our national team. I think he's done really well, obviously, for his club on loan, and we'll see. The decision has to come from the heart because it's not necessarily an easy task to come and play in these Concacaf games. It's a tough region at times. So for us, we'd be really grateful to have him, but his heart needs to be in it."
Balogun posted on social media that you should go where you're appreciated when he missed out on making the England senior roster for their UEFA Nations League camp so when that's also combined with the United States openly courting him, that could be enough to make the difference.
Of course, there are different levels of forwards available to the Three Lions compared to what the United States have available. Harry Kane and Ivan Toney can run circles around the United States contingent of Daryl Dike and Ricardo Pepi so it makes sense why Gareth Southgate wouldn't have called Balogun but England's loss could be the USMNT's gain.
Balogun has been in Florida training and that was confirmed by Hudson in the prematch presser before Grenada.
"As I've said before, we've had dialog. We've spoken. He's out here on a bit of a break and doing some training and we've had some discussions," Hudson said. "So yeah, and just for him to enjoy the rest of his trip."
Hudson also confirmed that other members of the squad have spoken to him and he's also in attendance at the Orlando Magic game to get the best experience that can be offered.
welcome to the O @balogun 🪄 pic.twitter.com/bKVIhKLb0m— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 23, 2023
Here's what to know:
Who is Florian Balogun?
The 21-year-old was born in Brooklyn and joined Arsenal in 2008. Making his first senior appearance in 2020, Balogun has had loan spells at Middlesbrough and Reims, where he is currently enjoying a breakout season. With 17 goals in 27 appearances, Balogun only trails Jonathan David and Kylian Mbappe in the Ligue 1 golden boot standings which is why it makes sense that the transfer rumor mill is going into overdrive around him.
Representing both England and the United States at youth levels, Balogun would need to file for a switch with FIFA to represent the United States but with the striker woes around the Americans, Balogun would immediately rise to the top of the depth chart if he were to commit.
What's his connection to the USMNT?
While Balogun has plenty of ties to this team, there are a few notable things to touch on. Balogun and United States midfielder Yunus Musah played together for the Arsenal U-18s and are still good friends. Musah is also someone who knows well what Balogun is going through having been pulled from England to commit to the United States himself. It's a move that has worked out well for Musah becoming an unquestioned starter in midfield and it could work just as well for Balogun.
Sticking with Arsenal, Matt Turner and Auston Trusty are both members of the Gunners. Turner acknowledged that he has been in contact with Balogun which means Trusty could also be in a similar boat due to both being loaned out from the team. With Tim Weah also playing in France, Balogun has plenty of angles to come across this exciting young United States squad which can help entice him to join in on the fun.
Where would he fit on the depth chart?
This is where the need for a player of Balogun's caliber shows. While he is a different type of forward than Josh Sargent, who is good in the air and has a high work rate to help create goals, Balogun's finishing would immediately make him the starting option atop the attack. With Jordan Pefok, Jesus Ferreira, Brandon Vazquez, Pepi, and Dike as alternative options, Balogun is already the most accomplished member even after a season in Ligue 1. Pefok has been great in Switzerland but since moving to Union Berlin he has run hot and cold which is something Balogun will want to avoid in the future.
While that doesn't mean that Balogun will be the savior of the team as plenty of forwards have joined the national team and stopped scoring, the goal is to have the most talented squad possible. Securing Balogun would certainly improve the United States from a talent perspective at a minimum.