The disappointment of seeing his nation miss out on a place at the FIFA 2018 World Cup behind him, Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent is determined to play his part in reshaping the future of U.S. soccer.
The 18-year-old was still playing for the U20s when Trinidad & Tobago dashed U.S. hopes of appearing at an eighth successive World Cup finals last October, but now finds himself at the forefront of a new generation of up-and-coming American talent charged with leading the revolution.
"I want to do anything I can to help put the Men's National Team back on track," three-time USMNT international Sargent told ussoccer.com as part of their new series 'RISING: Emerging Faces of the U.S. Men's National Team'. "I think with all these other younger guys like Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, Weston McKennie, there's a whole new generation that can really try to change the course of U.S. Soccer."
Less than a year on from that fateful night at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, there are signs that the tide is beginning to turn. A team built around Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic have won two and drawn three of their last six matches. Sargent has played in three of them, scoring on debut against Bolivia in May.
"Growing up [scoring goals] is what made me happy so I just wanted to keep doing it," Sargent recalled, the Missouri native having started playing soccer as young as three. "I remember just game after game it came naturally to me and I just love the feeling of scoring goals."
Sargent has netted his fair share of those. In 2016, he captained the USA U17s to victory at the Nike International Friendlies tournament, striking four times in three outings. Five goals at the CONCACAF U17 Championship, as well as four at the U20 World Cup - where he earned himself the Silver Boot as the tournament's second-highest marksman - followed in his breakout 2017 season. A move to Bremen and the U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year accolade were the icing on the cake.
"When I came to Bremen they were just very straightforward telling me who I'd be with, what my plan is, and I think it was just the best plan for me," Sargent said, having joined Werder in September 2017 and signed pro terms upon turning 18 five months later. "It's hard to explain, but it was a gut feeling I had that I belong here. One of the big reasons I came here was I felt so at home here. It was tough at the beginning, but now it's better. I've gotten used to it."
A couple of first-team Bremen goals in pre-season point to a man finding his feet, even if Sargent admits he is still getting to grips with the German language. Until he does, the USA's flame-haired beacon of hope - handed Werder's #19 jersey ahead of what is shaping up to be another milestone campaign - will just have to let his soccer do the talking.