COLOGNE, Germany. One of the most valuable qualities of an attacker is a sense of timing. The striker needs to know when to run to try to get rid of the defender and find the best moment to shoot on goal.

From the start of the Premier League season, US and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent took that trait to the next level. Not only is he regularly scoring goals – six times in 10 league matches – but with just under two months left before the start of the American World Cup campaign, his running has allowed him to achieve a perfect result. time to finalize manager Gregg Berhalter’s roster and possibly have a tough time in Qatar.

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“I really haven’t had a season like this,” Sargent said during a roundtable with reporters on Wednesday. “I would say that in terms of getting a lot of scoring chances, getting minutes as a striker like I have this season, yes, confidence is at an all-time high at the moment. I’m just trying to keep that momentum going. go as long as you can, keep scoring goals.”

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It has been a little over a year since Sargent last played for the USA, in a 4-1 win over Honduras in World Cup qualification, in which he was substituted at half-time and thus played no part in the comeback. in the second half, which was crucial to the qualification of Team USA. His form at club level was no better. While Norwich have had a hard time with the relegation season, Sargent has often played as a winger, which has taken him out of his comfort zone, despite playing in that position occasionally at previous club Werder Bremen, and he is out of all forces tried to contribute to the attack. A couple of season-ending injuries meant the campaign ended on an even more disappointing note.

“I would just say it was a disappointing time,” he said. But the U.S. forward has no regrets about the time he has spent on the flanks, though he admitted it didn’t play into his strengths.

“I think I am a team player. I’m not the type to say, “No, I won’t play as a winger if the coach wants me to play there,” he said. “I have definitely mastered the new position. It’s not where I feel most comfortable, but at the same time I got game time in [Premier League] and the best league in the world. So I wasn’t about to complain too much. But I think I feel most free and confident when I play as a striker.”

As minutes at position 9 were still hard to come by, this forced Berhalter to look elsewhere for a solution, with Ricardo Pepi and Jesús Ferreira getting the most reps for the remainder of qualifying. This meant that the player who was once considered the next big hitter in the US became something of an afterthought.

Fast forward to this season and Sargent’s patience and willingness to do the dirty work for the team has paid off. Time spent in the gym meant he entered the season stronger and in better shape than ever.

“I don’t mean to brag or anything, but during my injury at the end of the season, I kind of set a goal for myself in front of Norwich’s sporting department,” he said. “I get that these guys are pretty big and strong in Prem, so I made it my goal to go to the gym a little more and try to work on that.”

Sargent spent more time in his natural position thanks to Teemu Pukki’s injury, and the American was back in the net, although returning to his favorite position seemed a little unusual for him.

“I mean, of course I wanted to play forward,” he said. “So when I got this opportunity, I knew I had to take it and I just thought, ‘Do I still have touch? I dont know. I haven’t played there in a while. So it was great to score in that first game. I got the chance and then he started coming back to me.

With Pukki now healthy again, Sargent was moved to the wing again, but due to his streak of goals, he was used in a different way than before. Instead of playing predominantly at the touchline, he was allowed to hide inside and play as a second striker. This allowed him to continue to play in attack.

Sargent also has additional experience in getting through a difficult period and finding ways to build confidence in those moments. He showed that two factors helped him in this regard; the first focused on small details.

“I think just taking the little things out of games, bringing things into the game that you want to achieve, is not necessarily just winning the game as a whole, but the little things throughout the game that you set for yourself. guidelines,” he said. “And if you do those little things, you will get better and better and keep trying to improve yourself.”

The second was time spent with my wife and daughter to better disconnect from the sport, which can be overwhelming.

“It definitely helps you to just switch off and forget about football for a while,” Sargent said of family time. “When you’re a single guy, when you come home and are just stuck in your head, thinking about working out or whatever, it can be good for you to learn from it. But it can also hurt you if you think too much. a lot about it. So it helps me a lot to just relax and forget about football for a while.”

For now, Sargent is focused on securing his place in the final squad. By now, Berhalter’s preference for the position is well known. Mobility is key as the American coach expects his centre-forward to lead the press as well as return to midfield to help build the attack. And, oh yes, scoring goals – although, given that the hot Jordan Pefok has been left out of the roster, that might not be as important as the first two. But Sargent’s size and increased strength give him the ability to perhaps score with brute force that other forwards in American pool can’t. Sargent’s self-confidence also does not waver.

“I think one of the most important things in football is to stay as confident as possible, to keep believing in yourself when things go wrong,” Sargent said. “And when things are going well, you score to deal with that wave and continue with that momentum for as long as you can.”