USMNT: Sargent named starter v. Cuba

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There appears to be a change in the pecking order at center forward for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Thursday at a pre-match media availability that 19-year-old striker Josh Sargent will start up top for the USMNT in its CONCACAF Nations League debut against Cuba on Friday evening. That news puts Sargent theoretically ahead of veteran forward Gyasi Zardes, who has scored just four goals in 13 USMNT appearances in 2019.

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Ultimately, Sargent is still likely behind Jozy Altidore at the top of the pecking order, but this move is the latest proof that not only is Sargent one of the best strikers available, despite his age, but that he’s clearly making an impression on Berhalter.

Assuming that Sargent is on the starting XI tomorrow, it will mark his second-straight start for the USMNT, after he started in his hometown of St. Louis in a 1-1 draw with Uruguay.

For those who have watched Sargent since he became a household name in U.S. Soccer fan circles for the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, there’s a lot to like about his game. He doesn’t look physically imposing, but his ability to hold off defenders at his age and size is very impressive. His soccer IQ is off the charts and he reads the game very well.

He’s also recently taken advantage of an injury crisis and his opportunity to start with Werder Bremen. He’s started in each of Werder’s last three matches, including two 2-2 draws on the road at Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt, both of whom were in the top seven in the Bundesliga table.

Sargent also assisted on Marco Friedl’s equalizer against Dortmund.

All in all, Cuba could provide an interesting test for Sargent, a CONCACAF opponent gets hasn’t seen before at this level. Getting these reps before he turns 20 should be huge for him to gain experience before the start of World Cup qualifying, and it could be a coming out party with some goals on Friday night.