USA international Josh Sargent will go into the new Bundesliga season as one of the first names on the Werder Bremen teamsheet, head coach Florian Kohfeldt has revealed.
Sargent played an integral role at the business end of 2019/20, scoring his fourth goal in 28 appearances on the final day of the regulation season as Bremen thrashed Cologne 6-1 to move out of the automatic relegation places and into the play-offs.
The 20-year-old was a second-half substitute in the goalless first leg with Bundesliga 2 outfit Heidenheim, but justified his inclusion in the starting line-up for the return fixture by producing the assist for the opening goal. The contest ended 2-2, with Werder clinging onto their Bundesliga status thanks to the away-goals rule.
Sargent's performances in recent pre-season friendly wins over Groningen and St. Pauli have cemented his place in Kohfeldt's immediate plans.
"Right now, I can't imagine a starting XI that doesn't include Josh Sargent," enthused the Bremen tactician. "For me, he's in pole position for the opening weekend of the season."
With Bremen’s 2018/19 and 2019/20 top scorer Milot Rashica expected to be given regular minutes, a spot alongside the Kosovan in attack looks to be Sargent's - despite competition from Niclas Füllkrug, Davie Selke, Johannes Eggestein and Yuya Osako.
"The combination of his strength, physicality, work off the ball, his improved tactical understanding and positional flexibility - it all speaks volumes for him as a player," elaborated Kohfeldt.
"He brings a lot to the table. He can play wide or as the central striker in a 4-3-3, and he can play as a second striker in a 4-4-2. He showed real progress during the end of last season.
"I just want to say: Josh is no longer the contender."
Kohfeldt is well placed to judge Sargent's development, having overseen his transition from the IMG academy in Florida to the Bremen first team, via a seven-goal stint with the reserves in Germany's fourth tier.
Since scoring with his first touch on his Bundesliga debut in a match with Fortuna Düsseldorf on 12 December 2018, the Missouri native has featured in over 40 first-team matches for Die Grün-Weißen, registering six goals and as many assists.
He has also become a regular on the international scene, hitting five goals - including another debut effort, against Bolivia - in 12 appearances for the USMNT.
Watch: Josh Sargent's rise at Werder Bremen
The 2020/21 season will be Sargent's second full campaign of senior club football, and begins in earnest on 12 September with a trip to Carl Zeiss Jena in the DFB Cup first round.