Folarin Balogun, Ricardo Pepi Excite Fans with Goals as USA Beats Oman in Friendly

Folarin Balogun, Ricardo Pepi Excite Fans with Goals as USA Beats Oman in Friendly

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 13, 2023

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA - SEPTEMBER 12: Folarin Balogun #20 of the United States celebrates scoring with Kristoffer Lund #23 during the first half of a match between Oman and the United States at Allianz Field on September 12, 2023 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Carlos Gonzalez/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

The United States men’s national team has a battle brewing at striker.

Both Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi scored for the USMNT in a comfortable 4-0 win over Oman on Tuesday night.

U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team @USMNT

. @balogun with the opener in Minnesota 🇺🇸

U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team @USMNT


Oman gifted the United States a pair of goals as well, as Brenden Aaronson’s mediocre free kick somehow found its way through both the wall and goalkeeper before an Oman own-goal later in the contest.

U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team @USMNT

A free kick stunner from Brenden 💫

B/R Football @brfootball

WYD goalkeeper 🫠

But the story is the mounting battle Balogun and Pepi for the No. 9 role. It’s now two goals in four games for the Monaco man, while Pepi has found the back of the net six times in his past six appearances.

And USMNT fans on social media were loving the sudden wealth at striker after the game:

herculez gomez @herculezg

I’ll say it again. 6 in 6 games!

We got ourselves a 9 battle.

Can’t wait till a healthy Josh Sargent is added into this equation. Great problem to have if you’re the #USMNT

American Hooligans 🇺🇸⚽️ @AmericanHoolis

Pepi and Balogun both in form and challenging each other to be better, leading to two strong strikers options for the USMNT 🇺🇸

svint @svintfc

Pepi and Balogun going goal for goal #USMNT 😂🤣

Major League Soccer @MLS


Markel Santi @_Susaeta

I love Pepi. I don’t think Balo as a starter is a lock this cycle.

ChuckMe92 Soccer @ChuckMe92Soccer

Must be said for Pepi that he is 20. Could have even played in the U20 World Cup if he wanted.

Not saying Balogun isn’t the #1 or that Pepi will hit 20+ in a Top 5 League soon, simply that we’re very lucky to have both. Sargent should be with the A-squad too with his versatility

Dhan @Dhaneye

Btw it seems like everytime Balogun scored , Pepi answers and whenever Pepi scores , Balogun answers . It’s almost like the two are pushing each other. #USMNT

scuffed @scuffedpod

Balogun is such a boss on the ball in the box. Love the strength and composure he shows.

USMNTrev @Eyesandvibes

Balogun is such a good poacher man, the best strikers are always right place right time guys. No exceptions here!

For years, it felt as though the United States was searching for a reliable and clinical No. 9. Players like Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski and Gyasi Zardes didn’t scratch the itch, and the position was a continued concern after this past winter’s World Cup.

Pepi had fallen out of favor before Qatar and Balogun hadn’t pledged his allegiances to the country at that point, leaving players like Josh Sargent and Haji Wright to handle the position. They combined for one goal in four games.

Balogun (22) and Pepi (19) offer far more promise. Granted, context still matters—Oman is not a top opponent, and the United States probably should have pushed even more goals across the line.

But the United States now has a pair of really intriguing strikers at its disposal who appear locked in a battle for the starting role. Paired with the talent on the wings and in the midfield, the future appears to be bright for this group.

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