Josh Sargent’s sophomore season at Werder Bremen hasn’t been a complete bust — but the club’s season has been a slow train wreck. That’s why USMNT fans should feel anxious about the 20-year-old’s future in top tier German football.
Werder Bremen has been in the Bundesliga since the 1981/82 season — one of the longest active runs in the top tier of German football by any club. They even won the whole thing back in 2003/04. Fast-forward to this abysmal — for many reasons — 2020 season and Werder are second from the bottom, 5 points away from the relegation playoff spot and 9 points from 15th, which would mean safety from the drop.
Sargent is hardly to blame for the lack of points this season (18). He has only registered 9 starts in 25 matches. The Missouri native has scored 3 goals in 19 total appearances which works out to roughly 0.3 goals per 90 minutes, a perfectly fine return for the future striker of the American national team.
Around this same time in Jozy Altidore’s career, he was loaned from Villarreal to play in the Premier League with Hull City (09/10). The current first choice striker for Gregg Berhalter started 16 matches that season and only manged 1 goal. While the Premier League 10 years ago was arguably more competitive than the current Bundesliga, Altidore only managed 0.06 goals/90.
What about another American striker who put himself through the European challenge as a teenager: Bobby Wood? During his 19-year-old season, Wood only saw 714 minutes for 1960 Munich in 2. Bundesliga. Wood found the back of the net 3 times, but 2 years later he was sent to Union Berlin where he finally spread his wings.
So, say Werder Bremen drop into the German second tier. Would this hurt Sargent’s development? Some would argue no, because he would certainly start more games with his long term contact tying him to the squad for the next few years. From what we’ve seen out of the spunky red-haired wonder, he would likely pour in the goals against lesser competition.
But is that what we want the future USMNT first choice striker to be doing in his early 20s? Iron sharpens iron and the only way Sargent is going to reach his potential faster is by playing top competition in Europe.
Matthew Singer explains the talent around Sargent hasn’t allowed him to play the true striker position. He’s had to play back in his center forward role to help win balls in the midfield for Bremen. Who says this changes in 2. Bundesliga? He may hit double digits in goals but the “gaining confidence” argument is weak.
Sargent has all the tools, he just needs time to refine them in a league where he’s banging into world class defenders. And if his club doesn’t turn this around, Sargent won’t find anything worldclass in the German second division.