BERLIN (AP) Still only 18 but with one Bundesliga goal from one Bundesliga match, United States forward Josh Sargent is already being touted as a possible heir to Claudio Pizarro.
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Sargent scored for Werder Bremen with his first touch two minutes after coming on as a substitute in his league debut against Fortuna Duesseldorf on Friday. Pizarro, who has scored more goals (194) than any other foreign player in the Bundesliga, is 40 with his one-year deal over at the end of the season.
“It’s a realistic goal,” Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt said of Sargent. “We want to develop our own top forwards. If, next summer, Josh is the one (to replace Pizarro), then we’ll have done a lot of things right.”
In the 3-1 win over Fortuna Duesseldorf, Sargent was in the right place at the right time to head home the rebound from close range after opposing goalkeeper Michael Rensing saved Martin Harnik’s initial effort.
It was the fastest goal scored by a Bremen debutant and it ensured Sargent, who turned 18 on Feb. 20, is the second-youngest player to have scored for the German club after Aaron Hunt.
“Beginner’s luck,” Sargent tweeted.
The teenager also got a goal in his national team debut on May 28, scoring in a friendly against Bolivia. The U.S. Soccer Federation said he is the first American since at least 1990 to score in both his national and professional team debuts. Sargent also scored against Peru in October.
Sargent, who is from O’Fallon, Missouri, and joined Bremen last year, was finally given his chance in the Bundesliga after impressing with seven goals in 12 games for the club’s under-23 team in Germany’s fourth tier. He had to wait until his 18th birthday before he could play.
“He’s a good guy,” said Kohfeldt, who is trying to protect the player from burgeoning expectations.
“There’s so much in the guy. I don’t want to expect too much from him,” Kohfeldt said. “He scored one goal. After that there were some actions that didn’t quite work out.”
Kohfeldt said Sargent could expect more Bundesliga appearances but there is no rush to give the teenager playing time. Bremen next plays at league leader Dortmund on Saturday.
“We need to be careful with what we expect from him,” Kohfeldt said. “If he makes five or six appearances by the summer, it’ll have been a good year.”
Sargent can also learn a lot from Pizarro. The veteran Peru striker, who is in his fourth stint at Bremen, helped the club win the German Cup in 2009 and helped Bayern Munich to six Bundesliga titles during his time in Bavaria.
Kohfeldt, who said Sargent had been working on his physique, also praised the player’s mental strength, saying he doesn’t care whether he plays at Bremen’s Weserstadion, the under-23’s Platz 11 or “in front of 80,000 in Dortmund.”
“He can block that out, a quality Pizarro also has,” Kohfeldt said. “That can make the difference between a good and an outstanding player.”