Josh Sargent argues for USMNT World Cup roster spot

COLOGNE, Germany — Josh Sargent joined the United States national soccer team this week on a torrential rift with his English club, flaunting the type of showy numbers and carrying the accompanying confidence that surely belongs on a list of World Cup.

Before reporting to training camp in the historic riverside town, the 22-year-old striker has scored six goals in his last seven appearances for Norwich City, an English second division side on the verge of returning in the Premier League next spring.

He took a share for second place in the league goalscoring race and became a favorite at Carrow Road, where the yellow-clad Canaries have roamed since 1935.

Six goals just a month into the Premier League season is four more than he scored all of last season in the Premier League – an arid campaign that yielded none American invitation for over a year.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said Wednesday, “but glad to be back.”

No one saw this coming. Sargent was coming off a 2021-22 campaign – his first in England after four with Werder Bremen in Germany – in which he scored twice in the league and four times in 29 total appearances before missing the few weeks with a ankle injury. Last among 20 clubs with a 5-26-7 record, Norwich City were relegated.

Bad form has an impact on the status of the national team. It’s almost inevitable. Sargent was Berhalter’s first-choice striker when World Cup qualifying began last autumn, but after three scoreless appearances for the United States and worsening difficulties with Norwich City, he disappeared from the squad. listing.

Sargent said watching qualifying from afar was “upsetting, of course…wanting to be there but still happy with how everything was going for the team.”

Gio Reyna is happy and healthy. This is good news for the USMNT.

Sargent remained in the squad, but for practical reasons his World Cup prospects were bleak. Ricardo Pepi took the lead role in qualifying before Jesús Ferreira took over.

Jordan Pefok and Haji Wright were there. This summer, fans started clamoring for FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez, one of MLS’ top scorers. Sargent, meanwhile, had dropped on the depth chart.

“It was just a frustrating time and I was trying to think about the situation I was in at Norwich and not so much at the national team,” he said. “If I start performing better, if the team starts performing better, eventually I will have chances with the national team. It was very important for me to come into this season to get a good start to recover. somehow in this [U.S.] image.”

Four games into the season, the goals started to flow. He scored against Huddersfield Town, then twice against Millwall and once against Sunderland. After a one game break, Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion failed to stop him. In that streak, Norwich (6-2-2) went 6-0-1 to take second place behind Sheffield United.

Sargent’s push overlapped with Berhalter’s plans for his final pre-World Cup camp involving Europe-based players – a nine-day convention with friendlies against Japan on Friday in Dusseldorf and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Murcia, in Spain.

USMNT, facing tight World Cup schedule, begins camp in Germany

Announcing the roster last week, Berhalter said Sargent was in “great form” and had earned another chance to argue for a spot in the World Cup squad.

Sargent’s performances in friendlies will neither make nor destroy his chances; Berhalter said he would continue to monitor players and assess the squad’s needs before announcing 26 players on November 9 for the tournament in Qatar, which begins on November 20. But good performance – and goals – will strengthen his case.

Berhalter plans to select three forwards. Barring injury, Ferreira is a lock. Pepi, Sargent and Pefok seem to be fighting for the other two places. Only Pepi and Sargent were invited to this camp. Pepi is trying to follow Sargent’s example and regain his goalscoring form with Dutch club Groningen after an unforgettable season with Augsburg in Germany.

Sargent attributes his resurgence, in part, to playing more often in his natural position when attacking. Last season he often found himself in an uncomfortable role on the wing.

He had played a little on the flank at Werder Bremen, but the central role suited him best. When Norwich City asked him to play on the wing last season, he was unable to say no.

“I was getting playing time in the best league in the world, so I wasn’t going to complain too much,” Sargent said. “I feel the freest and the most confident when I play striker.”

Norwich City’s top striker is Finland’s Teemu Pukki, but an injury early in the season opened the door for Sargent, who responded with four goals in three games.

“When I had this opportunity, I knew I had to take it,” he said. “Just thinking, you know, ‘Do I still have my touch? I don’t know. I haven’t played there in a while. So it was amazing to score that first game.

Despite his fine form, Sargent returned to the wing when Pukki recovered, but with greater flexibility.

“Even though I play on the wing now, there is an understanding between me and the coach [Dean Smith] and the team that I will play a little more as a second striker and that I will go inside more.

The goals continued.

“I haven’t really had a season like this in terms of getting a lot of scoring chances, getting striker minutes,” said Sargent, a native of O’Fallon, Mo. ., a suburb of St. Louis. “Confidence is at an all-time high right now – I’m just trying to keep that momentum going for as long as possible and keep scoring goals.”

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