Josh Sargent: The Bundesliga’s next breakthrough star?
Joshua Sargent is another young upcoming US player in the Bundesliga. Football in the United States is developing with more and more talent emerging. A lot of promising ones attempt to make their breakthrough at a senior level in the top European leagues.
The Bundesliga seems to be the perfect place. The standard and reputation are high, while many clubs seek players from outside Europe as they struggle to compete with the high prices on the European transfer market. After the rise of Christian Pulisic at Dortmund, Josh Sargent might be the next top player from the United States to make his way in the Bundesliga. The American striker scored twice in his first two league appearances for Werder Bremen, surprising his coach, team and supporters.
Intelligent movement and clever decision-making
One of Sargent’s strengths is what most players develop throughout their career: a sense for space. With his ability to recognise in which areas the opposition defence is vulnerable, he is a constant threat for any opponent.
His runs also create space for his team-mates. As the youngster likes to make deep runs, the opposition defenders are often drawn out of position when following him.
Taking a closer look at his movements, it becomes clear that Sargent likes to shift towards the ball to receive short passes. Often he receives the ball, plays a wall pass and runs into a deeper area again. These runs enable up-back-through combinations. The constant movement complicates marking him and confuses the opposition defence.
Furthermore, the USA international understands the game and thereby is also able to help his team in the earlier phases. Sargent always attempts to move out of the cover-shadow and to create a diagonal passing lane as in the situation below.
Sargent recognises whether his team is able to play forward or whether he needs to shield the ball to gain time for his team-mates to move up the pitch. In case of the latter situation, Sargent cleverly stays between ball and opponent like in the picture below.
Below, Werder need a goal to equalise against Leipzig. Veteran Claudio Pizarro is on the bench ready to be substituted. With his experience of 460 Bundesliga games scoring 194 goals, the Peruvian striker has often helped Werder win games in the final stages. Instead, head coach Florian Kohfeldt brings on Josh Sargent. It is his second Bundesliga appearance. With his second shot, when the American receives the ball in the penalty-box and scores the equaliser.
In the end, Werder conceded a further goal and lost in Leipzig. But the discovery of the day was that Sargent is an actual strengthening for Bremen’s squad. Josh Sargent reached that stage earlier than even his coach expected:
“The actual plan was to integrate Josh Sargent in the second half of the season.” (Werder coach Florian Kohfeldt)
Moreover, the goal against Leipzig demonstrated Sargent’s strong finishing. Sargent made a quick decision where to shoot and took a powerful but precise shot. Therewith he is a real weapon in the penalty area. Most strikers have rather powerful or precise shots. The American combines power and accuracy to beat the opposition goalkeeper.
Sargent: the complete striker?
Sargent is a very complete striker. Standing 1.85m tall and weighing in at 79kg, the youngster is robust but still fast enough to cause trouble for opposition defences. On top of his impressive acceleration, Sargent is a pacy player. When entering the penalty area at full speed, opponents have issues following his runs.
In addition to his physical attributes, the American youngster has a good first touch. When receiving the ball, Sargent often already knows where his direct opponent – and most importantly, the goal – is. He is therefore capable of taking the ball towards goal with his first touch without allowing his direct opponent to steal the ball.
The under-17 US coach John Hackworth even said: “Josh is a player type similar to Robert Lewandowski.” Although the youngster is still far from Lewandowski’s level, the comparison is appropriate. Josh Sargent prefers to move in and around the penalty area, and is capable of freeing himself from opposition defenders in dangerous areas.
Last but not least, Josh Sargent shows a definite will to work for his success in every single minute on the pitch. The US striker presses the opponent during defensive phases with maximum intensity.
Potential for improvement
Of course, Josh Sargent has not reached his optimum level yet. Whereas he often utilised his physical advantages against youth players in the United States, he now competes with players possessing similar physical attributes. Because of this, for instance, Sargent sometimes loses aerial duels due to bad timing.
Furthermore, Sargent can still improve his dribbling quality when it comes to one-on-one situations. Although the American can hold on to the ball really well, he sometimes misses the ability to outplay opponents by dribbling. He takes some time to accelerate, while his body feints are too predictable to trick high quality defenders.
In addition to that, Sargent sometimes struggles in tight spaces in midfield. Whereas the US international does well when taking the ball into space with his first touch, he struggles when he needs to tightly control the ball.
It is still a long way to go for Josh Sargent. The 18-year-old American is just playing his first Bundesliga season. The competition in the attacking department of Werder Bremen is tough and Sargent needs to constantly convince coach Florian Kohfeldt to pick up match practice in the Bundesliga.
Nevertheless, the skill set, and even more importantly the mindset, of Sargent promises a successful breakthrough in Bremen.
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