Gyasi Zardes and Josh Sargent are the two leading candidates to start at striker on Friday when the U.S. Men’s National Team faces off with Mexico. It will be the first camp for the pair since June, when Sargent was cut prior to the start of the Concacaf Gold Cup.
With veteran Jozy Altidore not called in, Zardes and Sargent will look to take advantage of his absence. Zardes scored a trio of goals at the Gold Cup in six appearances, continuing to appear under his former MLS head coach, Gregg Berahalter.
Sargent comes in off the back of his first Bundesliga goal of the season, a wonderful bit of skill in Werder Bremen’s 3-2 win over Augsburg. Despite being one of the final cuts this summer, the 19-year-old will have his next crack to impress Berhalter against quality opposition.
“We talked about how he used a negative event and turned it positive,” Berhalter said. “It gave Josh motivation to go back to Bremen and really work for an opportunity. It’s nothing better when players take advantage of that. This season has been kind of the same he’s hungry and he scored a great goal in a win over the weekend.”
Despite being slightly raw on the senior level, Sargent is fighting for minutes not only with Werder Bremen, but also with the USMNT. He had a strong summer and will now try to take the next step in his development, beginning against rivals Mexico,
“I think we used the Gold Cup to improve, but I can see that the guys are enjoying being back together,” Berhalter said. We are looking forward to the game. We want to keep progressing. We got to a part in the Gold Cup where we wanted to be and now we wanna analyze that and grow even more. Now it’s about playing better than we did in the final and make the most of our game plan.”
The 28-year-old Zardes has 11 goals and two assists in MLS this season, totaling 24 appearances for the Columbus Crew. Since making the move to Columbus in 2018, Zardes has scored 30 goals in just close to two seasons. Not only was he able to work with Berhalter prior to him being named USMNT boss, but he’s since been able to start for the team with Berhalter there.
Although he is nine years older than Sargent, Zardes is a veteran option who brings a high work rate to the table. He hasn’t been in top form in the months since the Gold Cup though, which could open the door for Sargent to move past him on the USMNT depth chart.
As fierce as the battle to start might be, Zardes is welcoming the opportunity to work with the young Werder Bremen striker.
“Josh is a great striker and player and I think we can learn a lot from each other,” Zardes said. “As we go through the training sessions here at camp I feel we both can learn from other another. It’s a great opportunity for both of us to take advantage of being in this National Team.”
“Although I am young in age, we have plenty of guys who are younger than me in this camp. Ranging from 19-30’s, it’s a great experience for both groups. As a player all you can do is learn from each other. It’s always been about work ethic and trying to lead by example. As long as I am giving my all, I am helping my teammates get better.”
The USMNT faces off with rivals Mexico on Friday before traveling to St. Louis to take on Uruguay on Sept. 10th.