Josh Sargent scored a brace in a training game upon his return from injury. The young centre-forward is who the USMNT should build around.
The excitement of young players is insatiable. There are few more joyous processes than watching a burgeoning talent release their shackles, recognise their ability, and begin to fly.
Fans of all teams and nations love to see kids coming through. It is an inherent human response. We like to see people achieving their dreams, especially those that do not come at the expense of our own. And as fans and journalists, any dreams of being a professional sportsman have long fallen by the wayside.
This even truer for national team fans. Because national teams are stuck with the players they coach up and develop, seeing talent blossom is even all the more enjoyable. A domestic club can go and buy a striker if they need one. A national team has to make one out of the talent they have, and sometimes the talent is not all that impressive.
For the U.S. Men’s National Team, seeing young talent come through has been hard work. The natural expectations that rise whenever a vaguely gifted teenager breaks into the senior ranks of a club pile immense pressure on them to succeed. And when they inevitably fail to reach these sky-high expectations, criticism comes their way. Fredy Adu, are you reading?
And given the overall lack of talent in the USMNT system, anyone who shows even an ounce of potential is immediately anointed as the great saviour of American soccer. And why wouldn’t they be? Someone has to be, right?
Nevertheless, in recent years, genuine talent has begun to peer through the cracks and make a significant impact on world football. Christian Pulisic transferred for £60 million is one of the brighter attacking players in the Premier League, the highest-quality league in world football. Zach Steffen signed for Manchester City, the best team in the world. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are both making waves in the Bundesliga, another top-five European league.
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And then there is Josh Sargent. A skinny, white, ginger kid who lacks neither the frame nor athleticism that you would expect to see from a world-leading young professional sportsperson. And yet, in football, that inherent need for athleticism and explosiveness is not nearly as impactful as technique, skill, tactical understanding, vision, decision-making, positioning and anticipation. These somewhat intangible qualities are what Sargent excels at.
Sometimes, footballers are excellent without actually being excellent at any singular. They are not particularly quick, not massively strong or powerful, and sometimes they do not even seem to be that technically sound. And yet, they are extremely effective. This is Sargent.
He scored two goals on his return from injury in a friendly earlier this month. At still only 19, he has two goals and two assists in 553 Bundesliga minutes for Werder Bremen this season. Last year, he scored twice in only 205 minutes. He also scored seven goals and recorded two assists in just over 1000 minutes in the fourth tier of German football playing for Werder Bremen II. He has five goals in 12 USMNT appearances and scored 12 in 23 for the under-17s.
Sargent is a genuine talent. He is the type of productive, impactful and high-potential player that fans should be excited about and the USMNT should be building around. A natural goalscorer, a proven finisher, and a developing performer. It might just be time for Gregg Berhalter and co. to unleash him.