Gregg Berhalter must stick with Folarin Balogun for Copa America 2024

  • USA opened up Copa America 2024 with a win over Bolivia
  • Balogun scored his fourth goal for the Stars and Stripes
  • Gregg Berhalter must stick with Balogun as the starter for the duration of the tournament
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
United States v Bolivia - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Omar Vega/GettyImages

The United States kicked off its Copa America 2024 campaign with a convincing 2-0 win over Bolivia in Group C.

Most of the USMNT's starting XI has picked itself for the tournament, but the team needs a consistent striker to pair with Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah.

After tonight's opening victory, one thing is clear for head coach Gregg Berhalter: he must stick with Folarin Balogun for the remainder of the tournament. Balogun didn't necessarily have the most stellar of performances in the first half, but Berhalter has to get this decision right if USA is to go deep in this tournament.

The AS Monaco striker missed a golden opportunity to open up the scoring a minute into the game when a mishit pass found him wide open in Bolivia's penalty area. Pulisic put any worries of that coming back to bite USA just a minute later with a wonderful strike. Balogun had other opportunities to open his account, though some indecisiveness let him down.

On the verge of halftime, a great strike in the 44th minute with his weak foot doubled the lead for the Stars and Stripes.

Folarin Balogun, Antonee Robinson
Folarin Balogun, alongside Antonee Robinson, celebrates his fourth goal for the USMNT. / John Todd/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

Balogun looked like he settled down and found some rhythm to start the second half. He was linking play, stretching Bolivia's defense, and had a goal disallowed with Weah playing a cross in from an offside position.

Balogun did enough in his first Copa America appearance to make that position his this summer. If there's any criticism to give the former Arsenal player, he must minimize any indecisive moments from his play. Ricardo Pepi got himself into some really good positions to extend the lead, and he should have done so arguably twice. The 2021 MLS Young Player of the Year showed good energy, but if he wanted to give Berhalter a headache he needed to bury at least one of the chances.

Yes, Berhalter needs to keep his squad involved and make sure that players can provide a difference off the bench, but he also needs to know his best XI. The head coach shouldn't experiment too much, and he likely won't get an opportunity to. He's already under enough scrutiny as it is with fans demanding more of the coach.

USA plays Panama next with an opportunity to guarantee advancing to the knockout stage. After that, a showdown with Uruguay which will likely determine Group C's winner. If that game against Uruguay can secure USA the top spot, play your best option up top which is Balogun. An undefeated group stage will build an immense amount of confidence heading into the knockout stage with the likes of Argentina and Brazil likely looming.

If another option like Pepi or Haji Wright gives Berhalter reason to consider either, fair enough. Competition for places forces players to raise their levels. But, until that happens, go with Balogun.

Balogun was deemed the answer when he changed his allegiance to USA, but fans want to see a player make that position his own. A strong summer will be massive with the World Cup coming in two years.