Josh Sargent

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Three pressing questions for USMNT ahead of Gold Cup

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With the 2019 Gold Cup set to kick off in five days — and the U.S. men’s national team’s first game in nine — there are far more questions than answer for Gregg Berhalter’s team.

[ MORE: Lifeless USMNT hammered by Venezuela in final pre-Gold Cup tune-up ]

The list of pressing queries includes, but is not limited to, the following…

How is the midfield this bad?

Put another way, in statement form: it’s time to just build the midfield around Tyler Adams.

While the defending left plenty to be desired in the Yanks’ 3-0 defeat to Venezuela on Sunday, the likes of Aaron Long and Matt Miazga were done no favors whatsoever by the pressure applied (or lack thereof) by the midfield. Considering Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan comprised the starting midfield trio, the lack of pressure in the field’s middle third is hardly surprising. Come to think of it, Tyler Adams is the only pressing artist in the entire player pool, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has been pretty insistent on playing him at right back.

Central midfield will almost certainly be Adams’ long-term positional home, so why not stop wasting time and delaying the inevitable: turning the keys to the midfield — and, by extension, the team — to Adams? Without a press that opponents at least have to respect, opposing midfielders will continue to pick the USMNT apart with loads of time to pick a pass.


Why not just start Altidore?

Put another way: why isn’t Josh Sargent on this team again?

Sure, Berhalter wanted a bit more positional versatility with his final roster spot, but that came at the expense of arguably the most promising center forward prospect the U.S. has ever had. That seems… short-sighted (more on that in a moment).

If there is even a chance that Sargent becomes the starter at any point during his career, he should be on the roster for the first tournament of the new coach’s tenure. Full stop. Seeing how he isn’t on the roster, we’ll stick to debating the players at Berhalter’s disposal.

Jozy Altidore should be starting, for a number of different reasons:

  1. We have no idea whether or not he can play in Berhalter’s system, thus we need to find out.
  2. Playing without a capable center forward makes it difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the performances of any number of young attackers currently breaking into the team.
  3. His age when the 2022 World Cup kicks off: 33.

If we’re not going to see Sargent alongside the other attackers he’ll likely play with the next decade, let’s at least give them a functional environment in which to operate and develop.


What’s the USMNT’s goal for this Gold Cup?

Put another way: what exactly would you say we’re doing here?

Are we trying to win this particular tournament — in the year 2019 — or are we still focusing on the development of the next generation which will (hopefully) take us to the 2022 World Cup in 41 months? Of course, if you were to ask Berhalter that very question, he would give some variation of the following answer: “I see them as one and the same. We’re a young team, we need to gain tournament experience and learn how to win together.”

That’s all true, and we’ll see how strictly he sticks to that idea as the Gold Cup kicks off and wears on, particularly when he’s allowed to make a handful of changes to the roster between the group stage and the knockout rounds (assuming they advance, of course).

Sargent’s Gold Cup exclusion is Berhalter’s first truly baffling USMNT decision

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If this was Jurgen Klinsmann, he’s be absolutely skewered.

Gregg Berhalter made his first true Klinsmann-esque head-scratcher when he released the final 23-man Gold Cup roster, leaving Josh Sargent at home in favor of fellow strikers Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris.

It’s an absolutely baffling decision with little upside, foresight, or thought put in the process. If this was Klinsmann at the helm, the pitchforks and torches would be out en masse.

The 19-year-old Werder Bremen frontman was brought into the preliminary Gold Cup squad at the expense of a position with the likes of Timothy Weah and Paxton Pomykal at the U-20 World Cup group, where Sargent would have likely been the first-choice striker ahead of Sebastian Soto. To be fair, Soto is having an excellent U-20 World Cup, with his brace helping topple the favorites France in their Round of 16 meeting.

Yet still, had Sargent been in Poland, he would have received gobs of playing time and been a first-team regular racking up meaningful minutes on the pitch. Berhalter sacrificed that to bring Sargent into the Gold Cup fold, a clear indication that the Missouri-born teen was firmly in the mix for a first-team role. This highlights the first of many reasons Sargent’s exclusion is a massive mistake by Berhalter and his USMNT front office…as a 19-year-old, what Sargent needs most is game time. If the decision-makers wished to sacrifice valuable minutes in a high-leverage tournament with Tab Ramos and company, it should have been to get Sargent time with the senior squad. That doesn’t mean he necessarily had to play a bunch at the Gold Cup; being with the senior squad alone is valuable enough for a player of his age to make a fair trade-off from U-20 World Cup time.

Consider what Tab Ramos said a month ago when the U-20 World Cup preliminary roster was announced, with Sargent’s inclusion. “We weren’t 100% sure because of the playing time situation, so I did put him on the 50-man roster, but it’s clear that he’s going into the summer with the senior national team. So it’s best that he continues to move in that direction.”

Clearly the intent was to have Sargent be with the senior squad for the long-term. Instead, the striker is now sitting on his couch this summer, neither racking up high-leverage minutes in Poland or gaining valuable experience with the senior squad. How does that make any sense? The potential successor to Jozy Altidore‘s throne is simply cast aside.

The above quotes from Berhalter after the loss to Jamaica Wednesday night provide the perfect transition to the second reason this is flat out wrong. Berhalter said Sargent is “the striker for the national team in the future,” yet the new head man would willingly sacrifice his development to include Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes on the Gold Cup roster, like the Gold Cup is some win-at-all-costs trophy that needs even backups and third-stringers to be tip-top game-ready. With the unceremonious death of the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup is almost entirely meaningless. Yes, it still counts as the confederation’s main continental tournament, and it certainly provides a competitive bridge between four-year cycles to be taken seriously, but the ultimate goal of the USMNT is undoubtedly a successful end to World Cup qualification. Yet Berhalter is treating the Gold Cup like the World Cup itself, taking the very best 23 players instead of building for the future by making sure the team is as prepared as possible to qualify for Qatar 2022.

The Gold Cup should be taken for what it is: a meaningful tournament that gives the team a chance to gain minutes on the field together and prepare the future of the squad for the truly important World Cup qualifiers. Leaving Sargent at home for the likes of Zardes and Morris completely contradicts that. Even if Berhalter sacrificed a wide player like Tyler Boyd or Jonathan Lewis to keep four strikers just so Sargent could be with the team, it would have made more sense…there’s enough width on the roster between Paul Arriola and versatile players like Zardes, Christian Roldan, and Christian Pulisic that the team makeup would remain healthy.

Finally, for Berhalter to suggest that Sargent’s play on the field is far enough behind the likes of Zardes and Morris that it warrants his total exclusion from the squad – after he was kept home from Poland specifically for senior squad experience – is just flat out insulting to U.S. fans who know he could do the job against the likes of Panama and Trinidad & Tobago if necessitated. Surely the staff didn’t decide Sargent’s Gold Cup squad-readiness based on one B-team friendly against Jamaica where the entire attack was bogged down?

At 19 years old, Sargent is a bright talent and clearly Berhalter and company see him as the future of the USMNT attack. He doesn’t need rest after playing just 1,267 professional minutes this past season, including just 205 with the senior Werder Bremen squad. His development is still progressing, and for the kid to reach his full potential, he needs to be treated as the player the national team sees him becoming. Leaving him at home this summer because he’s not a first-team option – which in and of itself is debatable – is incredibly short-sighted and calls the true direction of Berhalter’s staff into serious question. This isn’t yet a fireable offense by any means, but after what fans were put through under Klinsmann, it harkens back to the German’s tenure full of baffling personnel decisions and questionable lineup choices that fans do not wish to be put through again. Recalling the previous incumbency by putting the Gold Cup on such a pedestal that it sacrifices the future of the national team in any way is enough to unearth bad memories and make any U.S. fan groan in disgust.

Clumsy USMNT falls at home to Jamaica

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Bring on the stars, already.

The United States struggled to assert itself over the majority of a 1-0 home loss to Jamaica on Wednesday, one of two friendlies in the run-up to the Gold Cup.

Shamar Nicholson scored a terrific goal from distance for Jamaica, whose team was superior for most of the evening.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

The Yanks were without Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Weston McKennie, as well as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Those five will be available for the Gold Cup, though John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin will miss the tournament.

Those absences were very much felt, as the Yanks passed as poorly as they have in some time. It improved a bit with some second half substitutions, but not enough to engender hope in the depth of Gregg Berhalter’s squad.

Paul Arriola was active on the right wing very early, and Josh Sargent nearly nodded a cross from the DC United man past Jamaican keeper Andre Blake.

[ MORE: Premier League VAR details ]

Zack Steffen struggled in the first quarter hour, caught out of goal on a long shot from distance that sailed wide and then nearly giving away a goal on a lethargic restart.

Steffen would make a pair of saves, once on an Alvas Powell header and again in the 43rd minute on a rip from well outside the 18.

The second half began with more of the same, the soon-to-be Manchester City property getting low to make a fine parry in the 53rd minute.

The Yanks made a pair of subs, and Jamaica went ahead at the hour mark. Nicholson put Wil Trapp on skates, and then lashed a beauty past Steffen for his first senior goal.

Duane Holmes’ introduction for Cristian Roldan, who was given playmaking duties, helped give the Yanks some life. The same can be said for Jonathan Amon.

Holmes cued up Sargent for a point-blank chance that was diverted wide of the goal. He set up Sargent again in the 88th, and the youngster did well to turn but Blake got a piece of his chopped offering.

USMNT’s Sargent signs ‘long-term’ extension with Werder

Carmen Jaspersen/dpa via AP
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Josh Sargent’s stock is rising as quickly as any American player’s stock has ever risen, but Werder Bremen intend to keep the 19-year-old forward among their ranks for quite some time in the wake of signing him to a “long-term contract extension.”

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for Week 28 (Tuesday & Wednesday) ]

Werder, who sit ninth in the Bundesliga table, announced the deal on Tuesday, four days after the U.S. men’s national team starlet made his first league start in a 1-1 draw with Stuttgart on Friday.

Head coach Florian Kohfeldt was full of praise for the St. Louis, Mo., native: “If you see Josh in the dressing room, in training or on a matchday, you see someone who wants to watch and learn, not just a very talented young footballer. I’m sure that Josh will become a very important part of the squad.”

[ MORE: Premier League midweek streaming, TV schedule ]

Sargent is arguably the best center forward prospect the USMNT has ever had, mixing loads of technical talent and a creative mind with great spatial awareness and timing on his movement. With any luck, he’ll continue to develop in a prominent role at Werder for at least two more seasons, scoring a boatload of goals in the process, before following in the footsteps of Christian Pulisic’s $73-million transfer to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

USMNT’s Sargent makes 1st Bundesliga start in Bremen’s 1-1 draw

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BREMEN, Germany (AP) Werder Bremen’s European hopes were damaged by a 1-1 home draw with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga Friday.

Bremen had been hoping to get closer to Wolfsburg, which occupies the last Europa League qualifying position in sixth spot, but had to be content with a move up to ninth.

Steven Zuber fired Stuttgart ahead after 61 seconds. The former Hoffenheim striker stayed cool after he was sent through by Mario Gomez to shoot beyond Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka and inside the far post.

Despite more possession for the hosts, it was Stuttgart which had the better chances – Gomez spurning two good opportunities – and the visitors were left to rue the misses when Max Kruse set up Dutch midfielder Davy Klaassen to equalize with a powerful strike before the break.

“I’m sorry for the team,” Gomez said.

Bremen brought on Claudio Pizarro, who became the oldest ever goalscorer when he grabbed a late equalizer against Hertha Berlin last weekend, for the last half-hour but the 40-year-old Peruvian could not find the winner.

American forward Josh Sargent made his first league start for Bremen.

Stuttgart remained in the relegation zone with 16 points from 23 games.

On Saturday, second-place Bayern Munich hosts Hertha. Leader Borussia Dortmund takes on Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports