The striker battle heats up! USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter praises duo of Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi after 3-0 win over Uzbekistan

Berhalter, Pepi and BalogunGetty Images
  • Balogun impresses in first-half
  • Pepi scores in second-half
  • Striker battle heats up

WHAT HAPPENED?: Despite not finding the back of the net on the night, Berhalter praised recent USMNT commit Folarin Balogun, adding that as a result of having no preseason, he expected the performance out of him. Meanwhile, despite failing to integrate himself into the starting XI with Dutch side PSV, the gaffer spoke levels on the 'confidence' Pepi showed on the night after his big summer move.

WHAT THEY SAID: On the 22-year-old Balogun, who made a summer move to Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, Berhalter had to say: "Playing against three center backs is difficult. I think he had maybe one chance in the first half, a couple of dribbles, but he got closed down quickly and had a couple of shots that were blocked. He's getting into his rhythm. He didn't have a preseason - didn't have a full preseason. He's going to be just fine. I think sometimes when you tell players that they're going to be off at halftime, maybe it affects them a little bit, but I think he's going to be in good shape for us."

The USMNT boss added: "The key for him is going to be how do we activate him behind the back line? He's very good, even in small movements around the penalty box where we need to be looking for him."

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Berhalter was pleased with the 'confidence' that Pepi showed when scoring the second goal on the night, adding: "He's much more confident now, which is great. I think he uses his body better now. He's looking to link up. I think he did a good job when he came in. We're happy with him. Like all the players, there are moments where it could have been better, but overall, he had a good understanding of the defensive work that needed to be done and it's great to see him confident and playing at a good level."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: It was a frustrating performance from the U.S. attack, which was woeful at times throughout the match. Uzbekistan kept them on their toes the entire match until two stoppage time goals arrived at their doorstep.

Neither Pepi nor Balogun particularly impressed, but the former did find the back of the net which helps his stock heading into Tuesday's match.


Folarin Balogun 2022-23GettyRicardo Pepi USMNT 2023Getty ImagesGregg Berhalter USMNT 2022Getty Images

WHAT NEXT FOR THE USMNT?: The U.S. will take the pitch again on Tuesday, September 12 when they host Oman in an international friendly.