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As hype continues to build, Josh Sargent shows he belongs with first USMNT goal

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CHESTER, PA– Throughout the past year or so, Josh Sargent has generated plenty of hype, and for good reason.

The 18-year-old forward has largely lived up to and, at times, exceeded expectations from the U-17 Men’s National Team right on through the opening months of his Werder Bremen career.

But, through all of it, Sargent had yet to play a true professional match. Monday’s friendly against Bolivia was his first, and Sargent only added to all of the excitement surrounding him by marking his first U.S. Men’s National Team cap with a debut goal.

It wasn’t the prettiest goal. It wasn’t one that showcased his much-discussed physicality or his continuously-evolving technical skill. It wasn’t the best goal he’s ever scored and, when all is said and done, it probably won’t be anywhere near the most significant.

But, at the end of the day, you always remember your first.

“I was very nervous, to be honest,” Sargent said after the match, a lopsided win over Bolivia that saw the forward score the second of three USMNT goals. “It was my first professional game ever. It was a pretty big deal to me and I was proud to net one.

“It’s been a really fast year, to be honest,” he added. “I haven’t had a long time to calm down and think about it, but it’s a really proud feeling I’d say. Going from one level to the next and being able to prove myself, it’s an immense feeling of pride.”

While Sargent took pride in the moment, the sequence itself wasn’t exactly the way he envisioned it. Sargent says he simply took advantage of a goalkeeping mistake, and his assessment couldn’t be more true.

As Sargent pressured, Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe attempted to loft a pass up and over the young forward. Sargent simply drifted back, picked off the pass and fired his shot, taking advantage of what he called a “lucky'” sequence.

It wasn’t all luck for Sargent, though. He finished the game completing 12 of his 14 passes while showing signs of the physicality and soccer IQ that have made him a can’t-miss prospect at several levels. He was certainly active throughout his 61-minute performance, combining several times with U-17 teammate, and fellow goalscorer, Timothy Weah.

“I’ve known him since such a young age,” Sargent said of Weah. “We were both talking about it. It’s a great feeling for both of us to do this together.

“There’s the U-20 and the U-17 team, and I think that helps a lot,” the Werder Bremen forward added. “We’re all just really hungry to prove that we belong on this team, and that’s what the biggest thing is.”

Now, though? The biggest thing is managing the hype. It’s inevitable at this point. Star prospect scored a goal in his debut? That’s an obvious recipe for excitement of the overzealous variety.

Since taking over for Bruce Arena, Dave Sarachan has been tasked with managing and, ultimately, developing a number of young USMNT stars. He’s worked to manage expectations while also nurturing the confidence that makes each and every young player shine above the rest of their peers. Sargent is just the latest young star to step in since the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying failure.

Sargent, like Weah, Weston McKennie and Antonee Robinson and several other up-and-coming USMNT prospects, has done enough to warrant excitement. He hasn’t been fazed by what has been a whirlwind year. And, so far, he’s left Sarachan cautiously optimistic for the future of a player that could very well be a long-term answer at a much-needed spot.

“You look around the world and there’s plenty of 18-year-old and 19-year-olds that are getting games at a high level,” Sarachan said. “Josh was a victim of his birth year at Werder Bremen, where he wasn’t allowed to get first-team minutes with Werder Bremen this year. And we’re very thin at the number nine position in American soccer in my opinion.

“So here’s a kid that has progressed through the age groups and World Cup settings, and I’m not projecting Josh to be a starter from here on in with the men’s team, but he possesses a certain mentality and frame and why not look at him at a time when you can? Because as I say, we need goalscorers, we need to give them opportunities. And so, for me, I didn’t think twice about it. I thought this was the perfect time to give him a little introduction.”

That little introduction was a resounding success, for both Sargent and the USMNT. By and large, Monday’s friendly was ideal for the USMNT. Young players stepped in and stepped up against an overmatched Bolivia team.

The next tests will be harder for Sargent and co. Ireland isn’t Bolivia, and France is most certainly on a completely different level than anything Sargent has faced in his career thus far.

He won’t pass every test and he won’t be able to create moments like Monday’s every time he takes the field, but Sargent is looking to manage and live up to expectations in both the short and long haul starting with the first few matches of his professional career.

“Obviously everybody wants to be the star, the big talent or whatever,” Sargent said. “I try not to pay attention to it really. People can say whatever they want, but, at the end of the day, I’m going to just put my head down and work hard.”

Comments

  1. Two players yesterday play regular minutes in a top four league? Stop hanging your hat on “potential!” It was a friendly against a less then stellar team and some young men performed.

    All this emphasis on the team is great but the onus is on each particular individual to improve! Get better everyday, challenge yourself, be hungry, grow physically and mentally, most of all play a lot of minutes at the highest level possible on your club team!

    National teams are not built in semi annual get together training spells or Uwhatever training. They are built on individuals buying into being the best player they can possibly be and then asking more of themselves to take it too another level. Successful teams need polished players to buy into team success. You can only polish a turd so much until realize whatever team concept will not work because you still dealing turds.

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  2. I am more sold on the immediate impact of Robinson, who is exceptional, and McKennie. Both are ready to start and wreak havoc today. I then thought Weah, Parks, and Sargent went in a second pile of “lots of potential” but I want to see them play a more skilled team at a faster tempo.

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    • I think Wood is currently better than Sargent, which will probably effectively remove the pressure from him when this pivots from try out to cohering an XI.

      Another way of lessening the heat is, yeah, he scored a goal, but he also had plenty of touch glitches. Plenty of work to do.

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    • Somebody said it earlier, Robinson reminds me of Yedlin, but after Yedlin had been playing for the USMNT for 2-3 years. Robinson still needs work on the defensive end. His his potential is very encouraging

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      • Bull. The kid is ready. He did a great job of reading and anticipating and positioning, and recovered very well on one play in particular. The only thing Yedlin did was hustle.

        I half wonder if it’s racial or something. What I saw was fairly complete. That a player who looks athletic can also defend shouldn’t seem contradictory.

  3. I echo the above comments. I am so sick of people trying to hype/annoint the next U.S. superstar. Let these kids play, grow and develop. Focus on team performance. Maybe we need to value humility a little more.

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  4. Here is the great news… in the past decade, we would have maybe one to two of these types of prospects every few years. So it was really devastating when someone like Agudelo hit a plateau or Josh Gatt pulled a hamstring, etc. All of a sudden we have like 20 high-level prospects waiting in the wings, and some of them are starting to break through. The fact that we are all talking about Parks, Robinson, Sargent, and Weah, in a game that featured two 19-year old Bundesliga/Champions League kids running the midfield (Pulisic/McKennie) is really awesome.
    I will agree with Sarachan though that we are thinnest up top (and on the flanks). It looks like the spine of this team is going to keep improving, but having a few more true goal scorers would make a huge difference. Here’s hoping 18/19 has Sargent, Novakavich, Wood, Johansson, and maybe even Haji Wright scoring goals by the boatload.

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    • For the next round of qualifying and the next WC, Wood, Altidore, Morris, and Zardes will all be possible strikers. Wood, Altidore, and Zardes will all be around 30 for the next WC, not too old at all to perform well Morris will be 27.

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  5. His future looks bright, but so did Freddy Adu’s. And Juan Agudelo scored in his debut game at about the same age. So, we need to see more and he needs to get time in games with his club team Werder Bremen.

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    • I had the same thought GP when I saw the graphic about Agudelo. There is a difference, I think, in that Sargeant has already been hand picked by Bremen, a solid team in one of the top 4 leagues in the world. So I think he is not just a product of the US fans wanting the next up and comer, rather he is being hyped(not as much) by a reknown Player developing organization . I hope we are all right!

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      • “he is being hyped(not as much) by a reknown Player developing organization…”

        He is being hyped by Bremen? That’s news to me.

  6. I agree, we all want the next C.P. ASAP so we gotta remember they’re young vs a crap opponent, but when you watch Sargent you get the feeling he just has that “it” factor

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  7. my two cents: forgive me? i critique the writer,Ryan tolmich a little bit. a) your dead wrong about the goal. that move of his to grab the ball out of the air and turn and play it into space for himself ALL IN ONE MOTION was a mad skill check. look at it again. hemade it look easy but it wasn’t easy. b) i strongly dislike all this talk about who is the star? it’s a team sport, ryan. together, attack. together, defend. win together, lose together. do you feel my vibe?

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    • That was a slick goal…a teenager outsmarted an experienced keeper. Not only that, but he finished the chance that he dreated.

      Sargent has a great mental approach and his soccer IQ is very high. Bremen lucked out scoring this guy. He is a classic striker.

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    • two cents/lowercase letters guy!!!!! You views are on point

      “i strongly dislike all this talk about who is the star? it’s a team sport, ryan. together, attack. together, defend. win together, lose together.”

      You are spot on with that comment. We need to rid the vibe on this team from an individualistic mindset to a collectivistic mindset.
      -Having a team think in terms of “We” rather than “I’ mentality
      -General praise this early should be shared as a team, rather than individualized
      -Emphasis should be on functioning as a team rather than individual initiative and achievements
      -We don’t have world superstars on this team, so it is way too early to develop a selfish mindset in the young minds of these players
      -Team comradery, playing for each other, finding open players, making the pass rather than forcing the shot is what we need on this young team

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