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Balogun seals Nations League against Canada after choosing US over England | USA


Having scored his first goal for the United States and won his first trophy for his country, Folarin Balogun looked to a future that includes a 2026 World Cup co-hosted by America.

“I’ve only here a short amount of time, but already I feel a part of it and I feel a part of something bigger,” he said.

Balogun and Chris Richards scored their first international goals, both off assists from Gio Reyna, and the US beat Canada 2-0 on Sunday night for the Americans’ second straight Concacaf Nations League title.

“It’s another step in the right direction,” US captain Christian Pulisic said. “It’s just going to be about these knockout games. Come those big tournaments, Copa América, World Cup, it’s time to get tough.”

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Richards scored in the 12th minute from Reyna’s corner, bouncing a header past goalkeeper Milan Borjan for his first goal in 10 international appearances.

Balogun, who debuted in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Mexico after choosing to play for the US over England, doubled the lead in the 34th minute when he held off Scott Kennedy to slot the ball past Borjan.

“We’re looking beyond to the 2026 World Cup, and we need to perform in high-intensity knockout games,” interim USA coach BJ Callaghan said. “That’s something that we learned from the World Cup.”

Callaghan took over in May and will run the team in the Concacaf Gold Cup, which starts on Sunday. Gregg Berhalter, who was brought back as coach on Friday after his contract was allowed to expire earlier this year, won’t return to the sidelines until September.

Before a crowd of 35,000 at Allegiant Stadium, the US extended their home unbeaten streak against Canada to 22 games dating to 1957. Canada remain without a title since the 2000 Gold Cup.

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Reyna sparked both goals from a central midfield role rather than the wing Berhalter used him on. He left at halftime with a calf injury and was replaced by Luca de la Torre. Reyna’s lack of hustle in training at the World Cup – and his family’s angry response – created the controversy that let to Berhalter’s January departure.

“It shows his quality that’s on the field, his ball security, his ability to take on two or three players and connect passes,” Callaghan said. “We’ve challenged Gio to do more work off the ball on the defensive side, and he’s absolutely risen to the occasion.”

Before Richards’ header, the Americans had not scored from a corner since Jordan Morris’ goal against El Salvador on 14 June last year.

“I definitely know I didn’t play that much this year, but I know what I can bring,” said Richards, who had just four Premier League starts for Crystal Palace this past season.

Callaghan made three changes from Thursday, inserting central defender Walker Zimmerman for Miles Robinson and midfielder Brenden Aaronson and right back Joe Scally for Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest, who were suspended after getting red cards against El Tri.

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Canada coach John Herdman said the 6ft 3in Zimmerman and 6ft 2in Richards were difficult to handle.

“We’ve talked about this post-World Cup,” said Herdman. “It’s in the boxes where Canada’s suffering. You don’t get time to work with the players. There’s no time. But we need this September window. We need the resources where we can actually put a camp together, where I can work for six days on the things that make the biggest difference moving forward.”

Mexico beat Panama 1-0 in the third-place match thanks to Jesús Gallardo’s fourth-minute goal.



Associated Press

Published: 2023-06-19 12:44:34

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