The stage is set for Josh Sargent to breakthrough at Werder Bremen in 2019/20. - © imago/Nordphoto
The stage is set for Josh Sargent to breakthrough at Werder Bremen in 2019/20. - © imago/Nordphoto

Josh Sargent: Why 2019/20 can be his year at Werder Bremen


Josh Sargent may have been left out of the USA's Gold Cup squad this summer, but his omission could well be a blessing in disguise for the Werder Bremen forward.

"Unfortunate not to be on the roster, but I wish the guys best of luck at the Gold Cup," Sargent posted on Twitter, hours after head coach Gregg Berhalter announced his decision. "Thank you everyone for the support and messages, I’ll be working as hard as I can to be back soon."

Berhalter's explanation that, "It's a simple reason, and it's that we think [Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes] ahead of him right now," is likely to sting – even if that duo are respectively 10 and eight years older than Sargent.

Josh Sargent played in friendlies for the USMNT this summer, but didn't make the cut for the Gold Cup roster. - imago/Icon SMI

That is not to say that the USMNT boss is not convinced of the Bremen No.19, however - quite the opposite in fact: “We have to remember that he’s 19 years old and he has a bright future in front of him. When I talked to him and gave him the news, one thing I mentioned was that he’s going to be the striker for the national team in the future. We’re sure of that.”

Nobody is questioning that; indeed, it appears to be more a case of 'when' than 'if'. After all, Sargent only has 205 minutes of senior club football under his belt (10 Bundesliga games, three shots, two goals), yet is already in contention to play at major international tournaments.

“As a player, his skills are that he’s so good in the area and if you get the ball in the box you always think ‘ok, perhaps this could work’,” said Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt when asked about his young protégé's abilities earlier in 2018/19. "Josh has performed very well in training and also in his recent Bundesliga games. More and more I feel that his actions aren't random. He knows exactly where he's meant to run."

Watch: Sargent scores on his Bundesliga debut against Fortuna Düsseldorf in December 2018

Such a combination of factors is precisely what makes Sargent's current situation so intriguing, perhaps even more so than if he had gone to the Gold Cup: he was already young, hard-working and undeniably talented, but now he has even more of a point to prove.

After all, the world of sports is filled with tales of disappointment fuelling later success. For example, former Borussia Dortmund coach and current Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp admitted his side's defeat in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final contributed to their victory this year: "The journey last year has helped us a lot because it was difficult. It was a really interesting experience. Losing is a very interesting experience. Not something you necessarily want, but it's like a very strong medicine. And if you take it, it can help."

Sargent's situation is of course very different to Liverpool's, but the feelings of frustration and disappointment are very much the same. The Bremen striker would obviously be thrilled to replicate even just a degree of Klopp's success, and can also take heart from recent examples of young, foreign-born players enjoying breakout second seasons in the Bundesliga.

Sargent (r.) will continue to learn from Claudio Pizarro (l.) at Bremen next season, but will be eager for more time in the first team. - imago/Jan Huebner

Fellow USA international Christian Pulisic only made nine appearances (386 minutes / three goals) for Dortmund in his debut season in 2015/16. The following campaign that rocketed to 29 league outings (1,514 minutes) with three goals and eight assists.

It was a similar story for Leon Bailey at Bayer Leverkusen. His first season statistics (in 2016/17) read eight appearances / 133 minutes / zero goals / one assist, but in his second it was 30 games / 2,219 minutes / nine goals / six assists. Jadon Sancho is another. He went from 12 games / 685 minutes / one goal / four assists in 2017/18 to 34 games / 2,462 minutes / 12 goals / 14 assists in 2018/19.

This is relevant to Sargent ahead of his second season as a professional, as he now knows what to expect, has greater experience and has had more time to adapt to life in Germany's top flight. The timing could not be any better either, with opportunity now knocking at Bremen. Max Kruse, who played more minutes than any other Werder striker and finished as the club's top scorer in 2018/19, has left the club, while 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro is likely to be used sparingly.

Sargent (r.) will hope to emulate USA team-mate Christian Pulisic (l.) and embark on a breakthrough second season in the Bundesliga. - 2018 Getty Images

All of which points towards Sargent being given a greater role in attack – especially as the club signalled their faith in him with a long-term contract extension in February this year.

Talent, opportunity, desire and a long summer break to recharge the batteries: the stage is very much set for 2019/20 to be Sargent's season.