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Sargent set to be latest teenager to make USMNT debut

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Josh Sargent’s parents will be in the stands along with a bunch of friends. Three months after his 18th birthday, the red-haired forward could be the latest teenager to debut for a transforming U.S. national team.

“It’s going very fast, to be honest, so I haven’t really had a lot of time to just process everything,” he said ahead of Monday’s exhibition against Bolivia. “It’s just one thing to next, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like staying busy and playing soccer all the time.”

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He left St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Missouri, in the middle of 10th grade to join the U.S. Under-17 team’s residency camp in Bradenton, Florida. He scored five goals last spring in the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, then was a surprise selection for the Under-20 World Cup roster and scored four goals as the U.S. reached the quarterfinals in South Korea. He agreed to sign a professional contract with Werder Bremen when he turned 18 on Feb. 20, then scored three more goals as the Americans reached the Under-17 World Cup quarterfinals in India.

Sargent joined Freddy Adu in 2007 as the only Americans to play in both FIFA youth tournaments in the same year. He was in position to become the first to play for the U-17s, U-20s and full national team in the same year but strained his right quadriceps on the first day of training ahead of November’s exhibition at Portugal.

“It’s unique,” U.S. Under-17 coach John Hackworth said. “That’s also part of the circumstance that the U.S. national team is in right now.”

Sargent’s dad, Jeff, was a defender at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley and Sangamon State, now the University of Illinois at Springfield. His mom, the former Liane Deetman, was a forward at SIU Edwardsville.

Josh played baseball (shortstop), basketball (point guard), football (lots of positions), ice hockey (center) and golf growing up, but excelled in soccer and joined the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club.

“St. Louis is such a hotbed for soccer in the first place,” Sargent said. “My family, they were really supportive about letting me choose what I wanted to do, and in the end I just felt most comfortable with soccer.”

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Kevin Kalish, his coach at Scott Gallagher and now coach at Saint Louis University, said Sargent stood out for his graceful movement and mentality to score and dominate games, and for a humble demeanor.

“Even as a youth player, when he was going in and out of the national team camp, you never felt like he was big-timing you,” Kalish said.

Sporting Kansas City claimed homegrown player rights and hoped to sign Sargent, but he decided against Major League Soccer and moved to Germany in January.

“Obviously it’s really tempting wanting to play close to home, so you can be close to family and everything, but I think that would have been the easy way out,” he said. “Just wanting to stay close to home isn’t really what I want to do in my career. I want to go to a place where I can develop and become the best player I can become.”

He didn’t speak any German when he flew from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., and onto Frankfurt and then Bremen – it wasn’t offered at St. Dominic. Sargent moved into a player dormitory located adjacent to Weser-Stadion, but because he didn’t turn 18 until after the January transfer window closed, he was ineligible to play for Bremen or even its reserve team in the third division until the 2018-19 season.

“You want to play games and be able to prove to the players that you belong there, but it’s difficult when you can’t play games and show them that,” he said. “At the same time it was good to just help me settle in and get used to the guys first.”

Sargent arrived in a country that has become a key cog in the U.S. player development system. Christian Pulisic, a midfielder from Hershey, Pennsylvania, made his debut for Borussia Dortmund at 17 two years ago, scored 12 goals in 97 matches and already is the top player on the national team. Weston McKennie, a midfielder from Little Elm, Texas, made his debut for Schalke at 18 on the final day of the 2016-17 season, appeared in 25 matches this season and scored in his American debut at Portugal.

“I think Christian kind of leads the way, because he’s shown that he can be successful there. And then Weston comes in and does it,” Hackworth said. “That belief and having a player that inspires you, but also allows you to look at something tangible and say it can be done, it absolutely can be done, is so powerful.”

Several of the Americans in Germany met up at Pulisic’s place recently. The group, which includes prospects Nick Taitague, Haji Wright, Isaiah Young and Zyen Jones, provides a support system for each other.

“They’re only about an hour-and-a-half drive away, so it’s good knowing if something’s going wrong or if I’m ever really homesick or something, I can just go see these guys, and we’re all really close,” Sargent said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Dave Sarachan gave nine players debuts in his first three matches after becoming interim national team coach last fall. Sargent’s time appears to be now.

“I think he’s already shown he’s a battler and he’s physically there,” Sarachan said. “It’s like any player that goes from a level of 20 miles an hour to now jumping into 30 miles an hour and 40. How do they handle the speed and how do they handle playing up against better defenders? And so far I think Josh, even in the few days we’ve been here, has shown he’s in the mix.”

Mexico smothers Cuba 7-0 to start Gold Cup strong

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If Tata Martino envisioned a perfect start to the 2019 Gold Cup, his wildest dreams came true as Mexico dismantled Cuba 7-0 in their first group stage game of the competition. In a completely dominating 90 minutes, Mexico asserted itself as one of the premiere title contenders of the tournament.

21-year-old Uriel Antuna, on his third international cap, snagged a hat-trick while Raul Jimenez was spectacular in the attack, with a hand in each of the first four goals of the game.

The onslaught started just two minutes in via a clown show at the back for Cuba that saw three defenders completely whiff on a clearance, with the ball coming off the post as well before Antuna bundled it into the back of the net for his first of a memorable night.

Raul Jimenez came inches away from doubling the lead in the eighth minute as he put a diving header just wide right as the early slaughter continued. After the opening 15 minutes, Mexico seemed to take its foot off the gas pedal, cruising through to halftime with very little goal action but also hardly allowing Cuba to see a touch of the ball, holding 76% possession through the first half-hour.

On the 30-minute mark, however, the second goal that had been begging finally came and the storm continued. Right through the heart of the Cuba defense, Wolves star Raul Jiminez finished it off through the two center-backs and past goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez. The third came before halftime as Diego Reyes bagged his first international goal since March of 2017 as a corner swung in to Jimenez at the far post and he poked it on net. While Sanchez saved his weak effort that seemed more like a delivery, it was pushed right to Reyes on the doorstep for the poke.

Cuba couldn’t make it to halftime before conceding again, with Mexico breaking down the right via Jiminez who crossed to the middle for Roberto Alvarado. The Cuban defense tracked back to intercept the initial cross, but the rebound fell to Antuna who stepped in front of Andres Guardado and ripped his second of the game.

The second half was no different as Mexico continued to pour it on, with Jimenez adding his second past the hour mark and 21-year-old Alexis Vega bagged his first international goal with 16 minutes to go. On the 80th minute, Antuna got free down the right and finished from a tight angle for his hat-trick.

Canada hammers Martinique 4-0 to begin 2019 Gold Cup

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19-year-old Gent striker Jonathan David is your trivia answer of the summer, scoring the opening goals of the 2019 Gold Cup as Canada comfortably downed Martinique 4-0 behind the youngster’s brace.

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The youngster scored his fifth international goal in just his fifth cap, continuing a hot start to his Canadian career. The winning moment came off a mistake at the back as Martinique goalkeeper Loic Chauvet misfired a pass to defender Daniel Herelle and David pounced, producing a delicious finish that saw him keep his cool to get Chauvet on the ground before clipping into the back of the net.

Martinique did not go down without a fight, as Kevin Parsemain missed a trio of great chances all just before halftime. The first saw him take a Kevin Fortune cross and toe-poke just wide left with the goal gaping, and moments later Atiba Harris was caught in possession leading to a Parsemain breakaway, but Milan Borjan saved low on the shot. Lastly, in first-half stoppage time, Parsemain put Canadian defender Derek Cornelius on his rear but his shot again was saved by Borjan at the near post.

In the second half Canada appeared to come out defensive-minded, and they struck on a ball over the top that completely fleeced the Martinique back line. Davis flashed by the high defensive line and latched onto the long ball from Samuel Piette, firing cooly past Chauvet yet again to put Canada up 2-0.

The floodgates opened after the hour mark, with Junior Hoilett and Scott Arfield both finding the back of the net with the Martinique back line all over the place. The rest of the match featured David going for his hat-trick, dragging a late shot wide left from distance looking for the milestone. Canada secured a solid start to the tournament just hours after the country’s women played to victory over New Zealand out in France at the World Cup.

Colombia downs Argentina 2-0 after big Messi miss

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A miserable opening 45 minutes gave way to a more exciting second half, and Roger Martinez came off the bench to win the day with a 71st minute stunner to give Colombia all three points in Bahia, supported by a late cherry on top from Duvan Zapata.

The goal came just minutes after Lionel Messi missed a golden opportunity to give Argentina the lead during a spell of serious possessional domination midway through the second half. Once again, the Argentinian collection of star forwards came up empty, a drought that continues to plague the side in big matches.

The first half, largely, was a physical mess with very few real chances on net. The possession was nearly even between the two sides, neither team registered a shot on target, and there were just five shots overall in the first half, including just one for Argentina.

Early on, Lionel Messi was at the heart of Argentina’s best chance as he delivered a stunning long ball forward for Sergio Aguero, but with David Ospina coming acres out of his net to challenge with a flying karate kick, the offside flag went up to end the chance. Colombia was dealt an early blow as Luis Muriel was forced off with an early thigh injury, replaced by Martinez in a move that would eventually prove critical.

Argentina suffered a near-disaster when Nicolas Otamendi delivered a dangerous back-pass to goalkeeper Franco Armani who sent it right back to his defender with both under heavy pressure, but they escaped just conceding a corner and it came to nothing for Colombia.

After the break, the game opened up a bit but there were still few chances on net. Messi nearly weaved his way through the entire Colombian defense, nutmegging Davinson Sanchez before Wilmar Barrios came in to cut the ball off, but the referee made a controversial decision not to award an illegal back-pass as Barrios then touched back to Ospina who collected in his arms. Instead, he showed a yellow card to Leandro Paredes for dissent after the action arguing his case.

The two teams burst into a scuffle when Messi was hacked down by Juan Cuadrado past the hour mark as Argentina began to grab hold of the game. Cuadrado received a yellow of his own and was withdrawn shortly thereafter. On the hour mark, Messi had a golden opportunity to give Argentina the lead, but as Paredes saw his effort saved, the rebound came to Messi but he headed wide right from point-blank range despite the goal gaping.

Minutes later Colombia took the lead through a simple yet stunning move as Martinez burst down the left and cut inside just outside the top of the penalty area, unleashing a fabulous strike that left a diving Armani with no chance as it buried into the side netting inside the far post.

Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli somehow decided that 31-year-old Matias Suarez was the choice for a last throw of the dice off the bench, choosing the man with two prior international caps over the likes of Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez. Instead, Colombia went down the other end and eviscerated the Argentina defense with a vicious counter down the left as Roger Martinez combined with Jefferson Lerma. The latter crossed to the doorstep and Zapata – who came on just five minutes earlier for Radamel Falcao – somehow beat the napping center-back pairing of German Pezzella and Otamendi.

The win for Colombia gives them an early advantage in Group B, while Argentina can still rescue its situation with matches remaining against Paraguay and Qatar. The loss marks the third in Argentina’s last four competitive matches, with losses to France and Croatia in World Cup play prior to this defeat.

Follow Live: Gold Cup kicks off with Mexico and Canada in action

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The 2019 Gold Cup is here, and both Mexico and Canada are in play as the tournament kicks off at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The games mark the first round of Group A play as Canada officially kicks things off against Martinique at 7:30 p.m. ET, while Mexico takes the field at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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Canada made its way to its 11th straight Gold Cup by bulldozing the CONCACAF Nations League with a perfect 4-0-0 record and a +17 goal differential to finish atop the table along with Haiti. Martinique takes the field for its sixth Gold Cup having also recorded a 4-0-0 record in the Nations League.

Mexico, meanwhile, will see Tata Martino take charge of his first competitive match as head man of El Tri. He comes into the Gold Cup on a high, having won each of the four previous matches he has taken charge of. Mexico has high expectations for the tournament, and a big start over Cuba would set the stage.