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Sargent returns for USMNT's pre-Copa tuneups

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Published in Soccer
Monday, 20 May 2024 13:43

United States men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter has named Josh Sargent in his 27-player roster for upcoming friendlies against Colombia and Brazil, the team's final matches before squads are due for Copa América.

Forward Sargent is expected to make his first appearance in USMNT camp since the 2022 World Cup after he had to withdraw from the Concacaf Nations League Finals in March due to injury.

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Sargent scored 16 goals in 26 league games for Norwich City in England's second-tier Championship this season after missing four months of action following ankle surgery last August. He appeared to hurt his ankle again last week but was still selected for the upcoming camp, which players will begin reporting to on May 28. Berhalter said Sargent has a little bit of foot swelling going on that the medical staff wants to get control of.

Sargent's return adds to a crowded USMNT forward pool that includes Folarin Balogun, Ricardo Pepi and Haji Wright. Berhalter said on Monday that he sees Wright playing a winger role, a position Berhalter feels currently lacks depth.

"So, then that would leave us with three strikers, and when you look at all the guys, they've been doing well when given the opportunity," Berhalter said. "Between their club form and what they've done for the national team in the past, we think it's a talented group of strikers."

Eighteen of the 27 players on Berhalter's latest roster took part in the 2022 World Cup. All but one player on the roster was with the U.S. for its Concacaf Nations League triumph in March, the lone exception being injured defender Sergiño Dest, who tore his ACL in training with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven last month.

Defender Shaq Moore, who plays for MLS' Nashville SC, appears to be Berhalter's answer for greater depth at right-back following Dest's injury.

"Obviously, with Sergiño going down, we have to figure out the right-back situation," Berhalter said, naming off Moore and Joe Scally as potential "like-for-like" options. Berhalter also said that Tim Weah could be utilized as a wing-back, as he has at times for Juventus.

"We just wanted the ability in this training camp to have options to have flexibility. Some of it may revolve around a back three," Berhalter said. "But the first objective is to see how we're gonna fill that right-back position because we know that we're going to be missing Sergiño."

Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Matt Turner and Tim Ream, all coming off club seasons in which they saw little playing time over the final three months, were included in the squad, while goalkeeper Zack Steffen was left off by Berhalter despite making 14 starts for Colorado since his return to MLS.

Berhalter will select his final Copa América roster in the days after the friendly matches against Colombia on June 8 in Landover, Maryland, and Brazil on June 12 in Orlando, Florida.

Berhalter faces some tough decisions, particularly with several young players also eligible for the 2024 Olympics, where the USMNT's under-23s will compete later this summer. The long-term goal, he said, is about preparing for the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

"We're really using these games to see both individually and collectively how we can perform," Berhalter said. "And when you get to play against teams like Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, what you get is information, and that information is going to help you grow and help you improve as you go towards 2026."

"This summer presents an opportunity for us to progress and grow as a team as we continue to build towards the 2026 FIFA World Cup," Berhalter said in a statement.

"We have a talented group of players and are excited about the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the world."

The USMNT's two longest active winless streaks are against Colombia (seven games) and Brazil (11 straight losses). The USMNT last earned a result against Colombia in 2005 -- a 3-0 victory in Fullerton, California -- and against Brazil in a 1-0 win in the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal in Los Angeles in 1998.

Brazil or Colombia is likely to be the USMNT's opponent in the Copa América quarterfinals if the Americans advance out of Group C.

Teams are required to submit their final rosters for Copa América by June 15, three days later than initially required.

Last week, CONMEBOL confirmed that roster sizes for the tournament would be expanded to a maximum of 26 players per team.

Copa América will be played entirely in the U.S. with all 10 CONMEBOL countries and six guest teams from Concacaf.

The tournament kicks off on June 20, with the USMNT in Group C alongside Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia. The final will take place on July 14 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Upcoming USMNT roster (Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Cardiff City/WAL; 9/0), Sean Johnson (Toronto FC/CAN; 13/0), Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 39/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 16/0), Kristoffer Lund (Palermo/ITA; 3/0), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 13/0), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 18/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 56/1), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG; 16/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 41/4), Miles Robinson (FC Cincinnati; 29/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 9/0)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Tyler Adams (Bournemouth/ENG; 38/2), Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis/ESP; 11/0), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 20/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 51/11), Yunus Musah (AC Milan; ITA; 35/0), Gio Reyna (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 26/8), Malik Tillman (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 10/0), Timmy Tillman (LAFC; 1/0)

FORWARDS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin/GER; 40/8), Folarin Balogun (Monaco/FRA; 10/3), Ricardo Pepi (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 23/10), Christian Pulisic (AC Milan/ITA; 66/28), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 23/5), Tim Weah (Juventus/ITA; 37/5), Haji Wright (Coventry City/ENG; 9/4)

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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