Balogun strike helps USA to Nations League title

Balogun strike helps USA to Nations League title

Folarin Balogun #20 of the United States scored his first goal for the team in the 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League final win over Canada on Sunday
Folarin Balogun #20 of the United States scored his first goal for the team in the 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League final win over Canada on Sunday

LAS VEGAS - Folarin Balogun scored his first goal for the United States as they clinched the CONCACAF Nations League with a 2-0 win over Canada at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal striker Balogun, making just his second appearance since switching his national team allegiance from England, grabbed the second goal for the US after Chris Richards had headed them in front in the 12th minute.

The US have won both of the Nations League tournaments held in the CONCACAF region and will now look for a regional double in the Gold Cup later this month.

Both goals were created by midfielder Gio Reyna, a player who found himself involved in the off-the field sagas surrounding head coach Gregg Berhalter, who was re-appointed on Friday.

Reyna's perfectly floated corner was firmly headed in by Richards, who arrived at the back post with little close attention from the Canadian defence.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder then set up Balogun's maiden goal for his new team, bursting out of midfield before slipping the ball through the defence and into the path of the striker who confidently drove home.

It was a natural striker's finish, with Balogun taking the ball in his stride and drilling home first-time from an angle.

Balogun spent last season on loan from Arsenal to French Ligue 1 club Reims where hs scored 21 goals and while his club future remains uncertain, he looks set to be a firm part of the American squad heading into the 2026 World Cup which they will co-host with Canada and Mexico.

The New York-born forward, who moved to England when he was a two-year-old, was part of the England Under-21 team before switching to the US in May.

He made his debut in the 3-0 semi-final win over Mexico and on Sunday's final he struck up a strong understanding with wingers Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic in what now looks a very promising U.S forward line.

"I'm just over the moon we were able to win tonight," said Balogun.

"It's going to take time to build relationships with my team-mates. I'm just delighted that (the goal) helped us to win this game. I've only been here a short time, but I feel like I'm part of something big And it's a great feeling," he added.

Despite their midfield being weakened by the absence of first choices Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, the Americans were dominant for large stretches.

Reyna had to go off at the interval with an ankle injury and the US looked less fluent without him but they showed plenty of spirit to neutralise Canada.

"We got the result tonight and we put in a top performance once again. We fought, we battled," said captain Pulisic.

"It's another step in the right direction. It's just going to be about these knockout games come those big tournaments – Copa America, World Cup – when times get tough we've got to step up, score the goals when it counts and keep them out of our goal. We did a good job of that tonight," he said.

The US, being led by interim coach B.J Callaghan ahead of Berhalter's return to the team, gave few opportunities to a Canada team who remain without a trophy in 23 years.

The best chance for John Herdman's team fell to Cyle Larin in the 67th minute but after his drive was blocked, he put his second attempt high over the bar.

Alphonso Davies, the Bayern Munich winger who is so often the danger man for Canada, was kept quiet for much of the game with the US doubling up their marking on him.

Davies' chances only came in the final stages when some desperate blocks from the Americans kept him out.

Mexico claimed third place in the tournament after beating Panama 1-0 thanks to a fourth minute goal from Jesus Gallardo.

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