The announcement of the U.S. roster for the Gold Cup touched
off a firestorm on social media as fans reacted to the news that 19-year-old Josh Sargent had been cut from the final 23-player roster submitted to Concacaf on Wednesday night.
Why call Sargent in to the senior national team camp and not send him to the U-20 World Cup and then drop him from the Gold Cup roster after all? Why, if he is the future of the national team, drop him in favor of Jozy Altidore, who will be 32 in 2022, and Gyasi Zardes, who will be 30?
Sargent, then 17, won the Silver Ball as the No. 2 scorer at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup, and scored two goals in nine appearances for the senior national team in 2018. He scored on his first touch of the ball for German club Werder Bremen and had two goals in his first three Bundesliga games.
But the reality is that Sargent struggled after the winter break. He played poorly in his first start for Werder Bremen against VfB Stuttgart in February and then disappeared from the Bremen rotation, making only one appearance -- for six minutes -- for the rest of the season.
Bremen came into the season with a deep frontline but some question marks about who would carry the scoring load. Those duties fell to another youngster, 22-year-old Milot Rashica from Kosovo, who scored nine goals -- all but one in the second half of the season.
In a media conference call on Thursday, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said the decision to not keep Sargent for the Gold Cup came down to the fact that he was No. 3 on the depth chart up front behind Altidore and Zardes.
“This was the most difficult decision we had to make, involving Josh,” Berhalter said. “When I talked to him and gave him the news, one thing I mentioned was that he is going to be the striker for the national team in the future. We’re sure of that. He wasn’t able to play as much as he could have. And he lacked a little sharpness.”
Sargent was part of the group of European-based players who arrived in camp early in Annapolis, Maryland, and he started in the 1-0 loss to Jamaica on Wednesday. Berhalter said the hamstring injury suffered by LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget on Sunday night that ruled him out of the Gold Cup forced him to change plans and not take three forwards.
“When Sebastian Lletget went down," Berhalter said. "It tossed a wrench into the plans and we didn’t think we could carry three strikers at that point. Josh will have more chances, but he wasn’t able to carry over his early-season momentum with Werder Bremen into the second half. We think Jozy and Gyasi are ahead of him right now."
Unfortunate not to be on the roster, but I wish the guys best of luck at the Gold Cup! Thank you everyone for the support and messages, I’ll be working as hard as I can to be back soon— Josh Sargent (@joshsargent) June 6, 2019
Sargent had not picked by Berhalter for the March friendlies against Ecuador and Chile and instead went to a U-23 camp held by Jason Kreis in Spain. Also at the camp was Tim Weah, another regular starter in 2018 with eligibility for the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.
Weah chose to play with the U-20s, who face Ecuador in Saturday's semifinals. Without Sargent, another forward, Sebastian Soto, has emerged as the new U.S. goal-scoring star with four goals in three starts, including two goals in the 3-2 win over France on Tuesday.
If there's a silver lining -- and Berhalter referred to it on Thursday -- it's that Sargent will be able to concentrate on his upcoming season at Werder Bremen and not fall behind if he was a late arrival in camp because of Gold Cup duties.
The Bundesliga offseason is short. Preseason training for Werder Bremen kicks off at the Weser-Stadion in three weeks.
Photo: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire