From Missouri to Germany and now England, Josh Sargent has had a unique path as an American soccer player at the young age of 22. But now, out of the spotlight after two relegations, a transfer to a new team and multiple injuries, Sargent is thriving at Norwich City, pushing for both a return to the Premier League and a trip to the World Cup in Qatar that didn't seem likely earlier this year.
After joining the Canaries in August 2021, Sargent struggled to settle into the Premier League, but it's easy to see why looking at things. Not only did Sargent see manager Daniel Farke fired and replaced by Dean Smith, but he also was played out of position as more of a defensive winger, and he picked up quite a few injuries. When healthy, he also had to split time with Adam Idah and Teemu Pukki in a single-striker system. But Dean Smith has changed that, and Sargent is thriving in the Championship this season.
Sargent's eight goals have him competing for the Golden Boot in the second division, and it's also gotten him back on the national team radar as Gregg Berhalter has taken notice as well. Prior to the September international window, Sargent logged 45 minutes against Japan. Those minutes were Sargent's first for the national team since September 2021, when he was hooked at halftime with the U.S. trailing Honduras 1-0 before Ricardo Pepi was involved in three goals to help the USMNT secure critical points in World Cup Qualifying with a 4-1 win.
Now, Sargent is keeping talented strikers like Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok and Brandon Vazquez sidelined to claw his way into the picture for Qatar. The way to sum up Sargent's game in the past has been that he does everything right except score goals, but by adding goals to his game in the Championship, Sargent is becoming the type of well-rounded number nine that the national team needs. Dean Smith has helped Sargent add the confidence in his game to shoot even when he isn't in good positions, which showed in Norwich's 2-1 loss to Watford.
The Canaries struggled in the match, but their best chances were when the ball hit the feet or head of Sargent. He brought the ball down to continue play by heading it to Sam Byram early in the match before getting into a good position in the box in case a chance came in then almost drew a penalty a few minutes later. But it was his goal right before the half that was a thing of beauty.
Kieran Dowell played the ball to Sargent's feet, and he took on the Watford defense megging one defender en route to beating Daniel Bachmann at his near post. While it wasn't enough to pull out points for Norwich in their promotion campaign, it's the kind of creativity in attack that the USMNT needs under Berhalter.
When Christian Pulisic isn't in form, Weston McKennie is usually the next player that the national team looks to for a moment of magic. But with McKennie's current form, Sargent could become that player at the World Cup. Sargent has likely booked his trip to Qatar, and by keeping things up he could push Jesus Ferreira for the starting role as well. It's a 180 that felt like a long shot just a few months ago, but in soccer things can change quickly. For a USMNT side that needs a quick change to put a poor September behind them, Sargent can help offer that.