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Confidence raised, Josh Sargent aims to continue scoring in USMNT friendlies

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Josh Sargent has experienced his share of highs and lows this season with Werder Bremen, alternating between good runs of form and some not so stellar ones.

It bodes well then for the U.S. Men’s National Team that he is currently playing some of his best soccer this season.

Sargent joined up with the USMNT this week for its March training camp, and did so on the tails of one of his most productive stretches in the current German Bundesliga campaign. Yes, he may have scored an own goal over the weekend, but the Werder Bremen striker has been finding the back of the opposing teams’ nets with some regularity in recent weeks.

“I think obviously I was struggling a little bit with scoring goals,” said Sargent on a video conference on Tuesday. “I was very happy about myself with how I was performing, but at the end of the day as a striker you are going to be judged on how many goals you score. Of course any goal I can score is going to boost my confidence and I feel like I am in a good place right now.”

If that is the case, Sargent’s confidence may be the highest it has been in quite a while. He has netted thrice since Feb. 26 and a career-high five times in the Bundesliga season. This, after practically promising early in the month that “there would be more goals to come.”

For the 21-year-old Sargent, rediscovering his nose for goal and getting more of a taste for what it is like to be a regular scoring threat has made playing much more natural. The American is no longer dealing with the stresses of being on a prolonged drought — like attempting to force the issue or looking to do too much — and that has freed him up on the field.

“I think the biggest difference is that everything comes very naturally,” said Sargent of playing while scoring regularly. “It just seems to happen with ease. You do not have to try so hard. When you are in that slump when you are not scoring goals, it feels like no matter what you do it is just impossible to score. I would say the biggest thing is everything just seems very easy.”

Now the idea is to try and carry that confidence and style of play over into the USMNT’s upcoming friendlies, beginning with this Thursday’s encounter with familiar Concacaf foe Jamaica. Of course, there is no guarantee that head coach Gregg Berhalter turns to Sargent in that game or in Sunday’s tussle with Northern Ireland given that there are other options on the roster like the red-hot Daryl Dike and promising newcomer Jordan Siebatcheu.

Still, the Werder Bremen attacker is the most experienced option in the bunch. That combined with his recent play at the club level have him poised to earn a good dose of minutes in these next two matches, if not be the first-choice up top.

“I think I have definitely grown as a player during this time period,” said Sargent. “I think I have really matured with my movements on the field and how I play, trying to be smarter and trying to play the easy pass. They are going to be physical. We have to move the ball very well, very quickly and be creative up front and try to find ways to get in behind and score goals.”

If Sargent can translate his recent scoring exploits at the club level to the international stage in this week’s games and add to his five USMNT tallies, his chances of being the preferred No. 9 will raise when the more important matches come around later this year.

He has found his groove and confidence a bit with Werder Bremen. Now he is looking to do the same with his country.

“As anywhere else, everybody is going to be pushing each other and everybody is gunning for that No. 1 spot right now,” said Sargent of the starting striker role. “There are a lot of young guys that want it. We will see who comes out on top at the end.”

Comments

  1. More importantly, I think what really needs to be addressed here is that Franco used the word thrice in a sentence.

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  2. I think there needs to be more attention to qualities and attributes and form should be a secondary concern within a particular “type” (and primarily international form, not club form). By that I mean, there are the bigger guys, the faster guys, the technical guys. Who are the best of each “type.” I think if you categorize the players and think about what you want from your roster it is clarifying of what otherwise becomes either an anarchic mosh pit or just taking supposed “form” players. For example, Sargent is not fast, has only a few header goals, but is a good technical player with some finishing. Properly framed, Sargent then competes against other technicians such as, say, Ferreira. The header and speed guys compete against their pods. You then decide how many of each type you want. That choice then needs to match what the system wants to do eg a team with fast wing play needs a 9 who can stay with the speed of play, a tiki taka team needs a technical 9, a crossing team needs a target 9 who can head. Until we have 9s scoring 20 goals a season, approaching this like a coach instead of a form obsessed fanboy is more likely to result in a striker useful to the actual plan. To get punchy, I think GB puts name brands and personal favorites out there and lacks a coherent sense of how to select towards his concept. If you want to take the ball to the flag and cross all day you need a target type, not Lletget or a technician. If you want to run, you need a faster 9 — Sargent at times struggled on days we raced up the wings. If you want to possess you need a 9 other than Zardes who won’t be tripping over the ball. I think this analysis is far more useful than fanboying club numbers. For that matter most teams with strikers getting numbers did this analysis for their own teams……and if they play a different style the numbers don’t necessarily translate…..so what are we trying to accomplish, and which players fit that most productively.

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    • I say this in part because to me there is a tension between saying you want to play possession soccer and trotting out a bunch of midfield workhorses — particularly at U23. Our midfield selections at times seem almost defensive but in an attacking formation. A team more intent on passing would line up 3 technical mids. And then as discussed above you would match the forward to the concept. Certain groups of forwards have certain abilities. They are not all equally relevant to particular concepts. I think we still need to sort out what it is we are trying to accomplish which would then be clarifying of which strikers to choose. When GB picks defenders for offense and mids for defense I am not sure what he is up to exactly. It would help if he sorted it.

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    • The other day I compared Jonathan Lewis to Robbie Findley. They both are/were speed guys and both have shown little to nothing in international play. The problem with your approach is that one dimensional players don’t always contribute mu8ch. Also, you should consider what is more important, technical skill or speed. Speed without technical skill really doesn’t accomplish much. A speed guy doesn’t have to be a Messi, but he needs to be able to finish or set up scorers. While your approach has some value, you can’t ignore what a player does in games. While some coaches base their decisions on how well a guy practices, there have been players who do better in games than in practices. Game performance should b e the top consideration and quality of the opposition used to gauge the effectiveness of the game performance.And while you cite international play over club performance, that ain’t necessarily so. A starter in the EPL faces much tougher opposition than the US national team faces in CONCACAF outside of Mexico.

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