Americans Abroad: Josh Sargent

We take a look at the best American soccer talent playing in Europe
Graham Ruthven
Thu, September 12, 5:27 AM EDT

The United States has pinned its hopes on numerous young talents as their next great striker over the years. Jozy Altidore looked like being that player for a time before his career stalled at Sunderland. Then there was Terrence Boyd, Bobby Wood, Aron Johannsson and Jordan Morris, but none of these players managed to nail down the position.

Now there’s Josh Sargent, with the American soccer community excited about the prospects of the 19-year-old making a mark in the Bundesliga this season. His stunning goal in Werder Bremen’s 3-2 win over Augsburg made sure that anyone who previously hadn’t heard of Sargent knew his name heading into the international break.

Sargent will surely be relieved to return to club duty after a difficult two weeks with the US national team. The teenager was denied a start in the defeat to Mexico, only coming off the bench to see a late penalty kick saved. Sargent was picked from the start for the friendly against Uruguay, but the striker failed to make much of an impression in front of his hometown crowd.

Of course, Sargent can’t be blamed for the USA’s current issues under new head coach Greg Berhalter. There are numerous problems in need of being unpicked, but the failure to give Sargent a platform baffles many. For instance, the decision to cut the teenager from the Gold Cup roster was not one made with the future in mind.

“We talked about how he used a negative event and turned it positive, and it gave him motivation to go back to Bremen and really work for an opportunity,” Berhalter said when asked about the way Sargent has used his Gold Cup disappointment to propel him forward early this season. “There’s nothing better than when players take advantage of that, and he did. He’s hung in there.”

Sargent has featured in two of Werder Bremen’s three Bundesliga games this season. The 19-year-old isn’t yet first choice, acting as Niclas Fullkrug’s deputy as Florian Kohfeldt’s centre forward. Werder Bremen’s start to the new season could have been better, winning just one from three matches, but the emergence of Sargent has been a bright point.

Last season saw speculation bubble to the surface linking Sargent with a several Premier League clubs. Given the impression the teenager has made since swapping St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri for Werder Bremen at the start of 2018, this is unsurprising. Sargent’s upward trajectory could carry him to even higher level.

Werder Bremen now face a crucial stage of their season, even at this early stage. They will travel to take on Union Berlin this weekend before facing table-toppers RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in back-to-back fixtures. It could be the case that Kohfeldt favours experience to get through this tough run of games, but Sargent’s exuberance could make Werder Bremen more dangerous as an opponent.

The American soccer community has a habit of hyping up young players to an unfair level, particularly when it comes to centre forwards. Sargent, however, warrants the hype he has received. This could be the 19-year-old’s season, the year he becomes a Bundesliga star rather than just one for the future.

 

By Graham Ruthven

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