Yunus Musah reflects on USMNT success so far & offers former Arsenal team-mate Folarin Balogun advice

Yunus Musah USMNT clap World Cup 2022
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Just 20 years old, the midfielder has already started four World Cup games, and he's just getting started.

Almost exactly two years ago, the U.S. men's national team secured a big commitment. A budding young star, born in the U.S. but raised in England, decided to join up with the USMNT after coming up through the Arsenal academy and starring for the Three Lions on the youth level.

Sound familiar? Funny how history repeats itself, huh?

As the battle for Folarin Balogun's allegiance rages on, the one for Yunus Musah's international future remains a key moment in USMNT history. It was in March 2021 that the U.S. secured a commitment from a talented young prospect that would anchor that midfield at the 2022 World Cup and, in theory, a few more in the coming years.

Musah, still just 20 years old, is now entering his second cycle and, with this group, is now something of a veteran. He's earned 24 caps in total, with two coming in friendlies before his big decision. Four, most importantly, came at the World Cup, where Musah starred next to Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in midfield against the likes of England, coincidentally.

So now, two years on, how does Musah look back at the decision? How much did that one choice change the trajectory of his career and life for good?

"Being at the World Cup and playing the way I did," Musah said, "it was really, really nice. It was a great achievement for me."

"[The decision] brings back a lot of memories," Musah said, "and it just makes me smile because I've had a wonderful time with the U.S. so far."

  1. Dual-national recruiting

    Dual-national recruiting

    For the USMNT, the recruiting of dual nationals remains a vital part of program-building, whether they're from England or wherever else. For years, the U.S. has worked to convince Mexican-Americans, Argentinian-Americans, German-Americans, French-Americans or whoever else is eligible for the team that the USMNT is a program that can offer them whatever they're looking for at the international level. More times than not, they've succeeded, with only a select few getting away and becoming stars for other countries.

    Musah, in many ways, is the biggest success story when it comes to recruiting. He was no castoff from a world power nor an obvious recruiting win with a deep connection to life in the United States. No, Musah, in many ways, felt like he was England's to lose until, suddenly, they lost him.

    To secure Musah's commitment, U.S. Soccer let their culture do the talking. They invited Musah to camp, introduced him to his new teammates and let things build from there. He trained with the team, ate with the team, enjoyed downtime with the team and, by the end of it all, he felt like he was a part of the team.

    It's a similar approach to what the U.S. will try to do with Balogun, a player with a story similar to Musah's. Balogun is significantly further along in his club career, having emerged as a star in Ligue 1, but he also has some U.S. experience at the youth level that Musah never had.

    Regardless, the U.S. is following a similar playbook with the Arsenal loanee visiting Orlando.

    "I think with with certain players, it's important, if we can, not every situation is the same, but then if there's an opportunity where we can have someone experience the culture, the team, our players, how we do things, myself, shared programming, how we see them playing and fitting into what we're doing," said USMNT interim coach Anthony Hudson, who oversaw Alejandro Zendejas, Taylor Booth and Johnny Cardoso as they became cap-tied to the program against Grenada on Friday.

    "I think these are all the all the things that certainly a player wants to see and feel and hear so he can make an informed decision."

  2. Welcome Folarin Balogun?

    Welcome Folarin Balogun?

    Throughout the week, several USMNT players have admitted to speaking to Balogun. Matt Turner, a teammate at Arsenal before Balogun left for Reims on loan, said the two developed a fast friendship last summer. Christian Pulisic said he would love to play with Balogun, while Hudson said that he hopes the striker enjoys his visit to Orlando, which has thus far included trips to see the NBA's Orlando Magic and the MLB's New York Yankees.

    Musah, meanwhile, says he hasn't spoken at length with his former Arsenal teammate. The two played together up to the U-18 level with the Gunners and, when Musah announced his decision to join the USMNT on Instagram, Balogun sent American soccer into a frenzy by commenting with a single handshake emoji.

    Could they reunite with the national team? Whenever Balogun is ready, Musah says he's more than ready to talk about his own experience should his former teammate want to discuss what the process is like.

    "I haven't spoken to him much about it," Musah said. "But I'm sure if he wants any advice, he's gonna pop up to me and ask me what it's like making a decision because it's a tough, tough decision to make to commit forever and everything. I'm sure if he wants any advice, he's gonna come chat to me for sure."

  3. Musah's club future
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    Musah's club future

    Few will know better what Balogun is going through than Musah, who, two years on, is more than happy with the choice he made. Over those two years, he's blossomed with the USMNT while continuing to grow with his club, Valencia, despite some difficult moments.

    Following his standout performance at the World Cup, there has been talk of Musah leaving Valencia, a club that is constantly dealing with financial issues as they slide down La Liga's hierarchy. Reports have said that the club could cash in on Musah, with Premier League clubs among those said to be interested.

    "There'll be interest after a World Cup, as usual when you have good performances and stuff, but, right now, I'm really focused on getting Valencia to stay in the league," he added when pressed on his future. "I feel like that's such a priority right now and is such a big responsibility I need to be really focused on, so that's all I'm really focused on right now."

  4. 'A really big future'
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    'A really big future'

    Before that, though, he'll be focused on El Salvador. Musah came off the bench on Friday against Grenada as the U.S. ran away to a 7-1 win, and there's a pretty good chance he'll start against El Salvador on Monday as the U.S. continue the defense of their CONCACAF Nations League crown.

    The Nations League, for Musah and several of these players, was the first trophy they won with the national team. Musah was in the squad in 2021 when the U.S. won the trophy against Mexico, but did not make an appearance that would have, at the time, cap-tied him. That, for a brief moment, set off a bit of panic that Musah could renege on his commitment.

    It obviously never happened as Musah went on to blossom into a starter for the USMNT. And, now, two years later, the U.S. is better for it, having secured a star of the present and future that is only just beginning to reap the rewards of his big choice.

    "He's such a good guy," Hudson said. "Every time, from the moment he walks in to camp, wherever you see him around, he's always got a smile on his face. He's just one of those people in every team that's just a really, really good person and I think, since the very start, we've all seen and witnessed a lot of positive change from him. As a player, as a person, we've got to know him better.

    "I think there's way more improvement in him. I think he has a really big future."