The September international break has finished, and United States men’s national team fans are concerned about a storm potentially brewing between Gregg Berhalter and new star striker Folarin Balogun.
First signs of the Berhalter Balogun tension began when a rumor started that an unnamed USMNT player wasn’t pleased about the friendlies vs. Uzbekistan and Oman.
trouble in paradise a certain player on the usmnt flew back home upset with Greg’s system and how he was used and forced to play.— 29 (@DiegoMendoza29_) September 13, 2023
It didn’t take the USMNT Twitter sleuths to determine that Balogun could be the unnamed player and had this clip at halftime vs. Oman as the main evidence.
Berhlater Balogun clip vs. Oman
— ًًً (@_captainpulisic) September 13, 2023
Despite scoring a goal after a blocked shot vs. Oman in the first half, Balogun didn’t have the look of someone thrilled with the team’s performance.
The hypothesis from some fans is that Balogun isn’t enjoying Berhalter’s style of play. The AS Monaco striker debuted for the USMNT under interim head coach B.J. Callaghan in June during the Concacaf Nations League.
Callaghan’s 4-2-3-1 formation suited Balogun’s style of play well. One of the striker’s best attributes is his runs behind the defense. His first goal he scored for the USMNT was an example of how that formation with Gio Reyna playing the No. 10 role worked well with his style.
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 19, 2023
Fast forward to September and now Balogun’s role looks different under Berhalter’s 4-3-3 formation. He was seen dropping deeper more to try and set up passes and he also got to witness a ludicrous number of crosses into the box.
Fans are thinking that he could be displeased with Berhalter’s tactics.
"I think we're still trying to figure out the best way to utilize Balo because we know that he's high quality. He made a number of good runs behind the back line that we didn't pick up on so he's still integrating on that side of it."- Gregg Berhalter on Folarin Balogun pic.twitter.com/Sdd0TwQX9j
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) September 13, 2023
During the September friendlies Balogun and Ricardo Pepi split time as both American strikers played one half in each of the two games.
The battle for the No. 9 position is healthy competition said Berhalter.
“As far as we see the competition, it's twofold, right? It's what they do for their clubs each and every week and what they do for us when they're in camp. Some of those are easy to measure because they're playing 90 minutes every week, and sometimes they're not and it becomes complicated,” Berhalter said.
“But to me, it's more about how they work together, how they train, what their attitude is in camp and what they bring to the team when they're on the field.
I thought from a pressing standpoint, Ricardo did a great job. It's really good to see him playing full of confidence. All you really want is your players to be confident and Ricardo certainly is."
It was somewhat interesting that the majority of Berhalter’s praise was for Pepi who certainly deserved some of the spotlight for his performances.
ESPN FC have also weighed in on the Berhalter Balogun situation saying that the quote from the head coach is more revealing than the clip of them talking.