Josh Sargent

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USMNT hangs 7 on overwhelmed Cuba

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The United States men’s national team made its CONCACAF Nations League debut in style, riding a six-goal first half to a 7-0 demolition of Cuba at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

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Weston McKennie had three goals and an assist in a stellar first half, while Jordan Morris had a goal and three assists.

Josh Sargent buried a chance, Christian Pulisic converted a penalty, and Cuba scored an own goal to round out the scoring in our nation’s capital.


Cuba’s defense saw the the Yanks blaze down the right side to open the scoring, Reggie Cannon playing Jordan Morris down the right flank and theSeattle Sounders man drove into the box before cutting back toward a sea of players in the box.

Christian Pulisic couldn’t reach the pass, which was good because McKennie may’ve been the intended target.

The Schalke man collected the ball with his first touch and lashed into the yawning cage as the clock hit :30

He didn’t need to wait long for the second, and Cannon again played Morris into the box to cross for McKennie’s finish.

McKennie then set up Morris for 3-0 in the ninth minute, with a hockey assist to Josh Sargent, before Morris and Cannon again cued up McKennie. Hat trick. 4-0. 13 minutes.

Jackson Yueill was lively, and spotted McKennie who in turn cued Pulisic up for an arrow just over the bar. Moments later Yueill found McKennie but one extra touch saw his shot blocked over the bar for a corner kick.

McKennie made a sensational touch to set up the fifth goal, which will go down as an own goal after Morris’ shot was saved off a defender’s face and into the goal.

Sargent made it 6-0 as Cuba’s midfield was nowhere to be found as Morris dropped a pass for a calm Sargent finish.

The Yanks won a penalty in the 61st minute, and Pulisic snapped up the ball and slotted it down the middle for his 14th international goal.

Roldan had a vicious deflected shot saved for a corner kick in the 79th.

WATCH: USMNT’s McKennie with 3 goals, assist in 13 minutes

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Weston McKennie needed just over 12 minutes to score a hat trick, with an assist to boot, as the United States men’s national team is letting loose on Cuba on Friday at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

The first came after 30 seconds of the nation’s first CONCACAF Nations League match.

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Cuba’s defense saw the the Yanks blaze down the right side, Reggie Cannon playing Jordan Morris down the right flank.

The Seattle Sounders man drove into the box before cutting back toward a sea of players in the box.

Christian Pulisic couldn’t reach the pass, which was good because McKennie may’ve been the intended target.

The Schalke man collected the ball with his first touch and lashed into the yawning cage as the clock hit :30.

It was 2-0 within 220 seconds, and the goal was strikingly similar to the first. Cannon led Morris down the right, and McKennie or his mark punched the cross into an empty goal.

The third goal came when Josh Sargent turned the ball and found McKennie, who returned the favor to Morris for 3-0 in the ninth minute.

It was Morris, Cannon, and McKennie again in the 13th minute, with a slight variation. This time Morris sent Cannon into the box for a cross which the Schalke man finished for 4-0.

USMNT continues progression into CONCACAF Nations League

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We’re closing in on ten months with Gregg Berhalter in charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and despite all of the results in that time span, give credit to Berhalter for one thing. He’s sticking to his plan.

Berhalter and a young USMNT (with an average age of just 25) open up the CONCACAF Nations League on Friday by hosting Cuba in Washington D.C. at 7:00 p.m. Based on the roster he called up, Berhalter plans to continue drilling his tactical and playing style ideas into his players heads until it becomes second nature. 20 players from the now-25-man squad were in his September camp and per U.S. Soccer, 24 of the 25 players have seen time for the USMNT this calendar year.

[READ: Pulisic details his journey so far]

While the Nations League is a competitive match on paper, there isn’t a whole lot that the U.S. can take away from a game against Cuba at home. All fans and the USMNT coaching staff would see individual performances and how the team performed at executing a gameplan.

It’s this gameplan, along with some of the young stars taking part, that will be most interesting to watch.

With Steffan starting again in goal, Cuba should provide more space or at least a better chance for the USMNT to play out of the box and start the buildup play early. From there, we can see players like Matt Miazga grow some confidence with good passes out of the back into the midfield or the long diagonal pass to the wingers in space.

It’s unclear whether Berhalter will start Bradley, his preferred No. 6, or save him for the game against Canada at his home stadium, BMO Field, on Tuesday. If not, it could be another cap for Jackson Yueill to show off his range of passing and keep the ball moving from side to side.

Speaking of wingers from before, it’s been a roller coaster of a last few months for Tyler Boyd. He completed his one-time switch to join the USMNT, started a few games and even scored in the early Gold Cup match against Guyana. But then he lost his national team starting spot to Jordan Morris, who’s had a terrific second half of the MLS season with Seattle, and Boyd has also struggled with his new club, Besiktas. He has just one start in all competitions since the beginning of September. He didn’t even make it off the bench in Besiktas’ 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the UEFA Europa League last week.

And yet, Berhalter has committed to Boyd and is willing to call him in, whether he’s in form or not. So the match against Cuba could be another chance for Boyd to show what he’s all about.

Somewhat similarly is Christian Pulisic. Everyone has watched as he started the season well but has found playing time hard to get. Even so, when he’s played he’s had an impact, as was seen last weekend in his 15-minute substitute appearance for Chelsea when he set up a goal. Clearly, even if he’s out of form, he is still the best attacking talent the USMNT has and will always be given a chance by Berhalter.

Lastly, there’s the striker position. It was announced earlier that with Jozy Altidore out injured again – missing his second straight USMNT camp, though last time was not injury related – 19-year-old forward Joshua Sargent would start up top against Cuba. This could be a changing of the guard, with Sargent preferred over Gyasi Zardes as Altidore’s backup with the USMNT. Or, it could have been the plan all along to play Sargent against Cuba and Zardes against Canada. We’ll see.

In any case, with Sargent getting starts for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, the Cuba match could be his chance to become a household name for many. It’s his first senior international game in a competitive tournament, and his hold up play, the way he reads the game and ability to play off the back shoulder of the centerbacks could lead to a goal or two on the night.

Ultimately, Friday’s test with Cuba will be a study in how this squad continues to absorb and understand Berhalter’s style of play, as he looks to prepare his team ultimately for the start of World Cup qualifying in September 2020.

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.

Three players (and a tactic) under the microscope for USMNT

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It’s becoming pretty clear that what the public wants to see from the United States men’s national team is not necessarily in lockstep with what Gregg Berhalter wants to see from the squad (aside from obviously goals and wins, which have both been in short supply).

He made this pretty clear last month, for better or for worse, when he defended his side’s myriad errors in playing out of the back against Mexico. He’d made it clear over a longer period of time, too, with the continued call-ups for a certain subset of players who have been poor for club and/or country.

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That happens with a lot of managers, and we still love Berhalter’s ability to squeeze something good out of lesser materials as he did with the Columbus Crew. While we admit to not being particular high on the manager’s squad selection, he shouldn’t have problems over the course of the two month’s CONCACAF Nations League matches with Canada and Cuba.

If he does, well, we’re going to be having a different conversation. And to be frank, that didn’t seem like anything worth worrying about just a few short months ago. Berhalter had been overrun by Tata Martino and Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, but honestly did a decent job in marshaling his men toward a result (Jozy Altidore atypically missed a big chance to score on the night).

Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes, but last month’s remarkably poor performance against Mexico rolling into a match versus Uruguay’s B-Team which was rescued by an increasingly impressive winger named Jordan Morris (‘Member him?).

But Cuba and Canada present two very different challenges for the United States over the next eight days. Cuba is the type of side the U.S. should boss 95 percent of the time, with bad fortunate possibly contributing to the occasional draw.

The attackers are going to be under pressure to produce this month, due to the fact that they, well, won’t be likely to face

Cuba has only one player on its roster playing outside of the Caribbean and Central America, and that’s USL striker Luis Paradela (who just came to Reno with the notable status as the first Cuban to play in the U.S. without defecting).

Canada presents a big threat to the U.S. back line, but its defenders should not be a match for a Christian Pulisic-led attack.

This is a week for the attackers.

Disclaimer: You won’t see us putting Christian Pulisic on this list for numerous reasons despite his status as an on-again, off-again lineup member for Chelsea. There is no doubting his acumen as a USMNT player and little reason to expect he’ll be anything but fantastic against these CONCACAF foes. If for whatever reason he isn’t a freed being against Cuba, or is rested, the chance to out-duel fellow CONCACAF phenom Alphonso Davies would be something he’d embrace even if he was going 90 on a religious basis for Frank Lampard.

1. Josh Sargent — Jozy Altidore’s latest injury has expedited the need for another CONCACAF killer, perhaps a new one. With Timothy Weah also injured, Sargent is the one.

Make no mistake about it: These games are not even in the ball park of “make or break” for the 19-year-old, who has started Werder Bremen’s last three Bundesliga matches.  Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt has opted for five different formations this season, deploying Sargent as a right wing four times and center forward twice.

But a strong showing or two could conceivably cement Sargent’s status as the top striker in the program.  Playing at a high level with Christian Pulisic amongst others would also help, because chemistry will be key in World Cup qualifying and Sargent can make a statement with his boss under pressure and both Altidore and Weah on the sidelines.

Sargent should have every opportunity to feature against Cuba and Canada, and we may see Berhalter put the teen in the lineup against Cuba on Friday and let his performance determine whether he keeps his place or sees Gyasi Zardes return to the fold against Canada.

2. Corey Baird — The Real Salt Lake man would be on the fringes of the national team picture under a lot of coaches, but Berhalter has liked what he’s seen from the 23-year-old. Baird started Berhalter’s first USMNT friendlies and is still in the fold. He’s come into club form heading into the last two international breaks, and is now called up for the fourth separate camp.

He’s gotta find a goal or standout cameo at the minimum, especially considering the players (Altidore, Weah) who will soon return to the fold. Baird has a goal and an assist from the left wing over his past two RSL matches as the club snapped out of its doldrums ahead of the playoffs.

3. Tyler Boyd — What a year it’s been for the one-time New Zealand striker, who took a loan to Turkey with both hands and earned a permanent transfer for a Champions League club and a new international registry.

Boyd is having fits and starts with Besiktas, and it’s fair to say that’s also been the case for the USMNT. He scored a pair of goals on his Gold Cup debut against Grenada, but was kept on the bench for the semifinals and final.

We’re not going to pretend that we see every Besiktas match, but the metrics for Boyd’s early performances have not been good. To be fair, no one had been playing that well for the 12th place side before they beat first place Alanyaspor at the weekend. The bad news is that Boyd was stapled to the bench, as he was three days prior when Besiktas lost to Wolves in the Europa League.

Like Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, this camp can be a welcome chance for Boyd to unleash his tools. Cuba is a bit easier to break down than Wolves or Trabzonspor.

BONUS. Playing out of the back — Gregg Berhalter bristled when asked about his side’s poor play against the Mexican press and his stubbornness in sticking with the attack all the way through a brutal loss to a rival.

If his men can’t do it against Cuba, forget about it.

This is going to be an under-the-radar test for Berhalter, who has continuously opted to use a mauler of a center back (Aaron Long) who is a heck of a tackler but lacking in the passing department. With Matt Miazga back in the fold and the chance to pair him with either Tim Ream or Miles Robinson, behind Michael Bradley, what will Berhalter choose and how well will it work?