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Josh Sargent will start for USMNT against Cuba in Concacaf Nations League

“We believe in Josh,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said Thursday.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nineteen-year-old forward Josh Sargent will start for the United States men’s national against Cuba on Friday in the Concacaf Nations League, coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed. 

Following the injury withdraw of Jozy Atlidore, USMNT fans wondered if they would see the young Bundesliga striker start again on the national stage. While there are six players listed on the roster as forwards, only Sargent and Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes are out-and-out goal scorers. 

“We believe in Josh. We think he is a good player. We think he is a player with a lot of potential,” Berhalter said Thursday. “It will be nice to see how he can perform tomorrow in the context of the team performance.”

Berhalter did not include Sargent on the 2019 Gold Cup roster this past summer. Sargent was also not involved in the U.S. youth national team run in the 2019 U-20 World Cup as he was with the senior team in a pre-Gold Cup camp. His start against Cuba at Audi Field on Friday will be his first in a competitive match with the U.S. senior team.

While the U.S. is statistically a superior team to Cuba, Sargent isn’t overlooking his competition and he plans to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Anytime you can get out on the field and prove to the coach that you can play with this team is a good thing,” Sargent told Pro Soccer USA. “For me personally, I think any time you can score goals and get your confidence level up it’s good for you, especially as a striker.”

Sargent has nine caps and two goals at the senior level for the U.S. and is in his second season with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. He spent the end of last season on the bench for Bremen behind 41-year-old Claudio Pizarro and 29-year-old Yuya Osako, but the young U.S. international received a recent string of minutes due to injuries at Bremen.

He utilized those minutes well last month, recording an assist on the tying goal at German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund in a stunning 2-2 draw. 

“The end of last season was a little difficult for me because I wasn’t really finding the minutes I wanted to get, but going into preseason and the season this year has been going well for me so far,” Sargent said. “I am happy with how I have done, but it is still a long process for me.” 

Sargent approaches both national team and club with patience that there is more to come. For him, the journey starts at Audi Field against Cuba, which could determine whether he starts in the following game on Tuesday, Oct. 15 in Toronto, against a more competitive opponent in Canada. 

“I am still very young,” Sargent said. “I know there is a lot of time in front of me and a lot of time for improvement.” 

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