U.S. Gold Cup roster cuts: Struggles in Bundesliga set Josh Sargent back

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."

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

12 comments about "U.S. Gold Cup roster cuts: Struggles in Bundesliga set Josh Sargent back".
  1. beautiful game, June 7, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    If Sargent's form is off, than how does What pain is Berhalter talking about? Sargent is #3 behind Zardes?  "Z" has proven to be a loyal hard working player; but inconsistent and mediocre in execution. If Berhalter feels comfortable with Zardes so be it. He had him in Columbus and old loyaltiies tend to stick together no matter what.

  2. Kevin Leahy, June 7, 2019 at 9:43 a.m.

    It might be better for Sargent's career @ the club level but, it serves zero purpose for the future of the national team. Tell me what puts him behind Jozy or Gyasi? Berhalter is showing me he knows nothing about offense. He forced the only real save of the match against Jamica. Give me a break!

  3. Chris Stephens, June 7, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    How do you leave Sargent off the U20 roster unless he's guaranteed to be selected for the Gold Cup?  Berhalter claims he's the future but picks two guys who are equal to Sargent at best?  

    I mean wow! What a joke!  

  4. Nick Gabris, June 7, 2019 at 10:45 a.m.

    Here we go again!  Berhalter is doing the same thing as J. Ellis to the WNT in doing these revampings to make the teams worse then they were, are. Favoritism in player selections, they are completely out of their element in international play. Thought the idea was to bring in the younger players to build for the future. We need international capable coaches for these teams to be able to compete on the intl. stage. We all know what needs to be done, plan for the future not for the present. 

  5. E Velazquez replied, June 7, 2019 at 7:11 p.m.

    lets wish urgent coach change for the  men and women national teams after the  world cup and gold cup. We need a true respectable managers

  6. Bob Ashpole, June 7, 2019 at 11:06 a.m.

    "We didn't think we could carry three strikers at that point." 

    So carry Zardes as a winger and cut a winger instead of a striker.

    Managers in all fields get so wrapped up in their pet theories that they lose sight of their original purpose. In soccer, the trap is letting the "formation" pick the players.

    In my view, when Berhalter couldn't figure out how to keep Sargent on the Gold Cup roster, he failed as the US Gold Cup coach before the first kick.

    "...difficult decision we had to make". "We didn't think".... Berhalter's deflection of his responsibility is troubling. Is USSF actually implementing their management "reforms" and taking away the independent authority of the MNT coach to make decisions? Did a USSF committee make the decision to cut Sargent? What is going on at USSF?

  7. Wooden Ships replied, June 7, 2019 at 10:25 p.m.

    Sounds right Bob. Little wonder Hugo couldn’t survive in the club and why it takes so long to nail down national team coaches. WWWD (What Would Wynalda Do)? Never mind, he didn’t stand a chance once ranks started closing.

  8. Goal Goal, June 7, 2019 at 11:16 a.m.

    This is the problem from top to bottom in in all mens/youth national team choices.  It's a political nightmare.  In the U17 group we have players who are picked for the team who arent even assigned to a club and not in game shape, don't have to show up for the camps and are placed on the team.  How does that happen.  We have players moved from u16 to the U17 knocking players at the U17 age group who are better than the ones being brought up a notch moved out of the rotation.  Then we have U16's hurting for talent.  Who makes decisions?

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, June 7, 2019 at 2:52 p.m.

    Sounds exactly like what happens when a project is managed by a committee. You gain concesus but lose coherency. In other words office politics trumps mission. 

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, June 7, 2019 at 3:05 p.m.

    Opps. consensus.

  11. John Soares, June 7, 2019 at 1:24 p.m.

    I have no problem with Sargent being sent home.
    BUT, as mentioned before. Why isn't he in Poland???

    There is NO comparing the #1 WNT with the strugling MNT.
    This is the WC, Ellis took the best, most reliable players.

  12. Kevin Leahy, June 7, 2019 at 9:10 p.m.

    Thanks Bob for hitting the nail on the head. From my perspective this is already a team in crisis! The stupidity is mind blowing!!

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