Hype is something that can make or break a player and, at one point or another, every single U.S. men's national team star has had to deal with it. It's only natural, really, for a country that remains so desperate for respect on the world stage. Every player, every prospect, is a chance to earn that respect from the outside world but, before that can happen, American fans often let their hopes and dreams run wild.
Who can forget the excitement that came when Americans first saw a player star at Borussia Dortmund or, later, win the Champions League at Chelsea? How about the moment one was signed by Barcelona - or the time one joined Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus? Remember when the son of a Ballon d'Or winner committed to the USMNT? Before Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie or Tim Weah became World Cup stars, they were first young players that captured the imagination of the American fan.
No player, though, has captured the imagination quite like Folarin Balogun, and no player has been the subject of so much hype. With his debut looming, it seems almost impossible for Balogun to meet the expectations that are now being thrust upon him by a fanbase that has wanted, needed, a striker of his caliber.
Can Balogun live up to the hype? It's far too soon to tell. He hasn't yet worn a USMNT shirt on the field, after all, but the road here, to his likely debut on Thursday night, shows just how much hype still plays a part in the American soccer ecosystem.
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