Folarin Balogun brings the expertise of a true goalscorer to the USMNT. His lethal nature in front of goal is exactly what the United States is in need of. Even before kicking a ball for the national team, it’s safe to say that he is likely to be the first USMNT true goalscorer we’ve had in a very long time. Balogun is likely to make his debut against Mexico on Thursday, July 15, in the Concacaf Nations League. But how long has it been since the last one?

Of late, the one sour spot in the USMNT squad has been up top. On the wings, Timothy Weah, Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic provide creativity. Meanwhile, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie provide the work rate in the midfield.

Looking at the top of the pitch, it’s been a rough, inconsistent array of choices. Jordan Morris’s injury problems took down what could have been a great international career. Josh Sargent is still young despite the fact that he earned his first call-up back in 2017. Ricardo Pepi and Jesús Ferreira are still young, too. Each has shown, perhaps inconsistently, they can score goals.

Yes, Folarin Balogun is young. He scores goals in a top European league. Even better, he has a clear path to play at an even higher, elite level in the near future. He is on loan at Reims, and his 20 goals are tied for fourth in Ligue 1. Yet, his parent club is Arsenal, a club that has a decision to make over whether or not he cracks its squad. Milan, RB Leipzig and Marseille are just a few of the clubs interested in Balogun. The 21-year-old can continue to develop anywhere he goes.

That is pivotal for the USMNT because, before Balogun, it lacked a true goalscorer.

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The best goalscorer in USMNT lore

It is easy to look at just goals and see who would be the best, well, goalscorer in team history. That would point to Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. Fittingly, the two are tied at the top on 57 goals in international play. Both Dempsey and Donovan were instrumental players in the USMNT squads of years prior. Yet, neither was an out-and-out striker. For example, at the 2010 World Cup, Dempsey and Donovan started each of the four games on the wings. Jozy Altidore started each game in the striker role alongside either Robbie Findley or Herculez Gomez.

USMNT goals since the 2010 World Cup
Clint Dempsey37
Jozy Altidore31
Christian Pulisic23
Landon Donovan12
Gyasi Zardes12
Bobby Wood11
Chris Wondolowski10
Jordan Morris10

So, where does that leave a true striker such as Folarin Balogun?

Jozy Altidore

The man who started four of those games ranks third in the list of the USMNT’s top scorers. Even though the 33-year-old striker has not scored since 2019 for the national team, he has pocketed 42 goals in his USMNT career. While Altidore found most of his club success with Toronto FC, he was one of the main players to spend a prolonged time in Europe. Much of that came with AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. Thirty-nine goals in 67 league appearances earned him a transfer to Sunderland in the Premier League. However, Altidore did not do well in England, scoring just once in 42 league appearances with Sunderland.

Altidore never made the biggest of impacts on the important games. Eighteen of his 42 goals were in international friendlies. However, he did also bag 18 in World Cup qualification. The highlights of that were a hat trick against Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Also, Altidore has the distinction of scoring what became the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Spain in the Confederations Cup in 2009.

Brian McBride

Brian McBride is a trailblazer for American talents in Europe. His stint at Fulham is a fond memory not just of American soccer fans, but of Fulham fans, too. McBride played over 10,000 minutes with Fulham, and he scored 40 goals in that time. Yet, the American spent most of his time Stateside with the Columbus Crew. He had 117 goal contributions with Columbus.

Internationally, McBride scored 30 goals in his 95 appearances with the USMNT in the 1990s and early 2000s. While Altidore scored with ease in international friendlies, McBride did most of his damage in official competitions. That includes 10 goals in World Cup qualifying, eight goals in Gold Cup play and three in World Cup action. Two of those goals at the World Cup provide to be game-winning goals against Portugal and Mexico in 2002.

Eric Wynalda

At the beginning of his international career, McBride sat behind Eric Wynalda in the pecking order. Eric Wynalda was massively important to the growth of American soccer in the 1990s. Acting as a starting striker for the USMNT at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, Wynalda had a terrific scoring record internationally. Three of his 34 goals came at the 1995 Copa America as the United States reached the semifinals. He also scored a famous free kick in the opener of the 1994 World Cup against Switzerland in Detroit.

Wynalda was part of the United States squads for a decade. During that timeframe, Wynalda played a role in one of two third-place finishes in the Confederations Cup. To be fair, though, that was just a four-team competition at the time. But, Wynalda did score a goal against Ivory Coast. He scored at least one goal in each Gold Cup tournament in the 1990s and the year 2000. The highlight was four goals in four games in the 1996 Gold Cup.

Wynalda wrote about the potential Balogun has to join these players as great strikers with the USMNT in The Guardian. That potential is so strong, Wynalda writes, that Balogun could be leading the line for a World Cup contender. Wynalda escaped the group stage just once, but Balogun could be a difference-maker on a major scale for the USMNT as a goalscorer.