Josh Sargent made the most of Teemu Pukki’s absence in Tuesday’s 2-1 EFL Championship victory over Huddersfield Town, but with Pukki and other forwards aiming to get into the mix, the American forward has been challenged by manager Dean Smith to build off of his recent performance.
Sargent scored his first league goal of the season on Tuesday for Norwich City, stepping in for the injured Pukki and delivering a strong outing. The U.S. men’s national team forward netted four goals for the Canaries last season in all competitions, mainly featuring as a winger under both Daniel Farke and Smith.
However, with Pukki’s status for Friday’s league clash with Millwall undetermined, Sargent could return as the lead striker in Smith’s squad, another opportunity to continue at his traditional position. Jordan Hugill and Adam Idah will also be pushing Sargent for minutes during this busy summer schedule for the Canaries, but Smith believes in the 22-year-old American to focus on the new challenge in front of him.
“It’s only one game,” Smith said in his pre-match press conference Thursday. “Sarge knows that and the group do as well. We feel that we have quite a few offensive players here now within the ranks who can create and score goals.
“Josh did himself a lot of favors on Tuesday night, winning plaudits for his performance and rightly so,” Smith added. “He knows that he also has Jordan Hugill pushing him as well as Teemu. I thought he took his chance in pre-season as well as a striker. He has deserved that slot and done well.”
Sargent’s versatility could not only be important for Norwich City during the first half of the league season, but also for the USMNT with September friendlies vastly approaching, and the FIFA World Cup just three months away. The Missouri native has not featured for the USMNT since September, last scoring a goal back in Concacaf Nations League action in November 2019.
With Sargent earning a new opportunity to lead the Norwich City line in Pukki’s absence, the sky is the limit for him to boost his stock for club and country. Friday’s clash with Millwall will be a new test for Sargent and his teammates, but one that they will be eager for after claiming their first win of the 2022-23 campaign.