It's been quite a week in the life of young American striker Josh Sargent.
On Wednesday, the St. Louis-area native turned 19, marking a year since he was officially able to join Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. Two days later, he was given his first start in the German top flight, the next step on his fast career rise–with U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter in attendance at the Weserstadion, no less. With forward not an area of immense depth for the U.S., Sargent could well find himself leading the line for Berhalter next month when the Americans face Ecuador and Chile in a pair of friendlies.
His ascent at Bremen has been quite rapid. After scoring seven goals in 12 appearances with Werder Bremen II in Germany's fourth division, Sargent got the call to the first team in December and hasn't looked back. He scored on his debut–on his first touch–and then again three matches later, and after eight appearances off the bench, he earned his first start for the midtable side.
“It's definitely a very fast tempo," Sargent told SI's Grant Wahl last month about the rise to the top flight. "There’s a huge difference going from the fourth division in Germany to the first league. So you have to be thinking every second of the game. And it's much more physical and faster players so everything is increased in pace.”
Unlike his debut, though, his first start wasn't all that memorable. Bremen had a largely lackluster attacking day, and service to Sargent was minimal. It wasn't for a lack of the forward's trying, with Sargent, who was stationed as the right forward in a 4-4-2, active in his runs around and behind Stuttgart defenders, but it didn't lead to all that much productivity. Sargent was 16 of 21 passing on the day, and his 34 touches were the second-fewest on the team among starters.
The closest he came to being in position to create danger was in the 30th minute, when he was stationed wide open at the penalty spot, only for Milot Rashica to opt to shoot through traffic and earn a corner instead of lay the ball off for his teammate, whom, given the speed of the sequence, he probably didn't see.
Sargent came off at the 60-minute mark, replaced by a man more than twice his age, 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro, and Werder Bremen, which conceded a first-minute goal and had some late chances, settled for a 1-1 draw and a point that keeps it in a crowded mix for a Europa League berth.
Sargent, like many of the young, talented Americans currently plying their trade in Germany, figures to have plenty more productive days in his career for both club and country. The key right now is continuing to earn the opportunities to have them.