American football: Why Josh Sargent is an obvious forward choice for USMNT against Netherlands in World Cup clash

American football: Why Josh Sargent is an obvious forward choice for USMNT against Netherlands in World Cup clash

For a striker, scoring goals is the goal, but when the ball doesn’t hit the back of the net, there are other ways to contribute to the team. Oliver Giroud is the poster man for this as France won the 2018 World Cup without scoring a goal, and that’s something the United States may seek to imitate. That’s not to say the USA have half the attacking threat that France have, but the team’s strengths lie in their wingers, not the striker, but Josh Sargent began to thrive leading the line and doing the hard work for manager Gregg Berhalter.

USA scored in both games Sargent started with him being heavily involved in the game despite not scoring. Versus Waleshe pulled Joe Rodon out of position before he started playing for Tim Weah’s goal, and his role was different against Iran. Sargent had to press, look for passes when the ball was played for him and do the dirty work to keep Iran off balance. He did a great job until being pulled out with an ankle injury, with a source telling CBS Sports he looks tentatively good to play in Saturday’s Round of 16 against the Netherlands.

His performance was noticed by CBS Sports football analyst and former USMNT forward Charlie Davies, who on the “In football, we trust” podcast had a lot of praise for Sargent’s performance so far.

“Josh Sargent was a beast,” Davies said after the 1-0 win over Iran. “Josh Sargent’s heist game, his involvement, running on both sides of the ball, defending and controlling. Josh Sargent brought his A-game…And I don’t know if I would have chosen him to play [against Iran] but after [this performance], it is the new one. He didn’t have a great opportunity to score, but in terms of involvement and what he brought to the table with his selflessness in the final third.”

A look at where Josh Sargent picked up his keys confirms Davies’ point. Sargent covered every inch of the offensive half, and a whole lot of territory in his own half as well.

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Sargent’s heist play was effective in making the United States click in the final third and that’s exactly what a forward needs to do when they don’t score. Goals would be nice, but as long as the team clicks with Sargent in the lineup, it’s hard to justify removing him from the lineup. Jesus Ferreira did not play a minute during this World Cup while Hadji Wright hasn’t impressed in its time so far.

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Former USMNT man Jimmy Conrad said in the episode that Wright just didn’t have the impact he wanted, giving the ball too much against Iran and looking clueless, with a turnover almost leading to conceding a penalty. So for now, it looks like Sargent has earned Berhalter’s trust to move forward while others haven’t stepped in.

Time will tell if Sargent is fit to play, and Berhalter may end up having to make do. But if Sargent can’t go, it makes more sense to start Ferreira because he can bring some of those similar qualities to the table. But it will be difficult to replace Sargent, who has looked sharp for both club and country after a strong start to the campaign with Norwich. There has been quite a rise since his national team image drop in September 2021, but Sargent has regained confidence in his game at Norwich City and regained his place with the reds, whites and blues until further notice.

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