Thursday, May 30, 2024

USMNT’s Josh Sargent explains Norwich success: Before David Wagner, ‘there was never a clear position for me’

For most of his career, the way to describe United States international Josh Sargent’s game has been, “He’s doing the right things, but if only he put the ball in the back of the net, he’d be a complete striker.” Now coached by German-American David Wagner at Norwich City, Sargent is doing just that and it’s paying dividends as his 15 Championship goals have the Canaries pushing for promotion to the Premier League.

Despite missing the Concacaf Nations League roster for the United States men’s national team due to an ankle injury, Sargent has 10 goals since the start of February for Norwich. While team success is part of the reason for that, so is having a defined role for the first time in his career.  

“Right when he came in, he made it clear that I was just going to be a striker in his system and before that, there was never really a clear position for me. I was kind of a second striker or a winger at Werder Bremen in my first years and at Norwich even,” Sargent said on CBS Sports Golazo Network’s Morning Footy about his role under Wagner. “So, when he came in and told me that, and I knew in my head I could fully focus on that position again. The position that I’ve been playing since I was a kid. It made me very happy and I’ve been able to improve each game and I feel like I’m in a very good spot right now so I give a lot of credit to him.”

Teemu Pukki has now gone to Major League Soccer and Adam Idah has been on loan at Celtic since January showing the confidence that Norwich had in Sargent to do the job at striker on his own. It’s no surprise that since that vote of confidence from those above him, Sargent has flourished, but it isn’t just them who are displaying trust in the American, it’s his teammates as well. Veteran Ashley Barnes recently called Sargent the team’s best layer. 

“A player like [Barnes] who has been in the Prem for a while, hearing that from him is good for my confidence, and at the end of the day, I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing for a while now and just keep my head down and working hard and everything will work out the right way,” Sargent said.

Sargent isn’t the only American lighting up the Championship as Haji Wright also has 15 goals to push Coventry City into the hunt for promotion but what’s interesting is that Wright is doing almost the opposite. While Sargent has found joy at the nine, it’s Wright who is deputizing as a central striker and as a winger which is music to USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter’s ears.

No longer do the two players need to compete for one position on the national team even if they may be competing for one spot for promotion to the Premier League. It will be quite a ride down to the final moments of the Championship season and Sargent’s role and confidence will play a major part in who comes out on top, while opening the doors for him when it comes to the Copa America. 

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