Of Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer
Editor’s Note: “Plane to Qatar” is FOX Sports’ weekly feature that tracks the progress of players hoping to break even United States The men’s national team’s 26-player list for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
How quickly can things change from week to week here?
Just take Josh Sargent. A few weeks ago, Sargent, a natural center forward who spent last season stranded on the wing for a Norwich City side that was eventually relegated from England’s Premier League, was hardly a long shot to make the USMNT’s World Cup squad.
Then Sargent filled in for Finland international Teemu Puki at forward and scored three times in his last two games in England’s second tier. It’s not just the goals. In his Man of the Match performance last week against Millwall, Sargent looked like a different player. He didn’t stop running. He got into – and won – physical duels with defenders all over the field. And both of his endings were amazing:
Sargent’s confidence is clearly at an all-time high. With US coach Gregg Berhalter set to name the squad for September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks, the timing couldn’t be better.
It now seems likely that Sargent will return to the USMNT next month for the first time in a year. He still faces stiff competition, of course – even if Berhalter takes three strikers to Qatar (and we think he will). Jordan Pefok, Brandon Vazquez and Haji Wright have also scored consistently.
But Sargent is better in the build-up, and he has more international experience than all of them combined. What was missing was a goal. Now that they’re finally pouring in, we think he’s pulled ahead of Vazquez and snagged a seat — for now. After all, things can change quickly here.
F/M Brenden Aaronson (Leeds): Denied his first Premier League goal two weeks ago, Aaronson opened the scoring in Sunday’s 3-0 rout of Chelsea:
M Tyler Adams (Leeds): Any questions about Adams’ ability to handle the rigors of the Premier League were decisively answered by his dominant 90-minute performance against the Blues.
D Sergiño Dest (Barcelona): Barça manager Xavi has told the USMNT’s first choice straight back to find a new club before the transfer window closes next week, according to multiple reports. Not ideal.
F Jesus Ferreira (Dallas): Ferreira scored his 15th goal of the MLS season — converting a pass from USMNT teammate Paul Arriola — last week against Philadelphia.
M Weston McKennie (Juventus): McKennie has started both of Juve’s two Serie A games so far, going 62 minutes in Monday’s goalless draw at Sampdoria.
M Yunus Musah (Valencia): Like fellow American midfield lock McKennie, it’s two games, two starts for Musah in La Liga.
F Christian Pulisic (Chelsea): Pulisic has played just 57 minutes through the Blues’ first three games and his future at Chelsea remains in limbo [LINK: ] as the transfer window draws to a close.
F/M Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund): Reyna came off the bench in his first action of the Bundesliga season and looked sharp after 28 minutes of work.
D Antonee Robinson (Fulham): Robinson has played every minute of the unbeaten Cottagers’ first three Premier League games.
*F Tim Weah (Little): Weah’s foot injury is worse than first feared. France say he could miss the September camp.
D Walker Zimmerman (Nashville): The big center back helped Nashville keep a clean sheet in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Dallas.
M Kellyn Acosta (LAFC): Another week, another 90 minutes for the hard-running destroyer, who has played all of the Supporters Shield leaders’ last seven MLS games
M Paul Arriola (Dallas): If Arriola continues to play and produce as he has all season, he will be in Qatar.
D Reggie Cannon (Boavista): The versatile right-back has played all 270 minutes of the club’s first three competitions in Portugal’s top flight.
M Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo): The slick 24-year-old made his La Liga debut against Real Madrid on Saturday, coming on for the final minutes of a 4-1 defeat.
G Sean Johnson (New York City): The veteran goalkeeper pitched a shutout – his MLS-leading 13th – without having to save in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chicago. (Chelsea-bound USMNT prospect Gaga Slonina stopped three shots for the Fire.)
D Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls): After 13 consecutive starts, Long was rested for Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Cincinnati. He came off the bench with 33 minutes left.
M Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders): The 27-year-old scored his seventh goal of the season in last week’s 3-3 draw with LA Galaxy.
F Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin): With a well taken finish against Leipzig, Pefok now has three goals in four competitive games for his new club.
D Tim Ream (Fulham): The vastly experienced Ream continues to impress in his return to the Premier League. Berhalter also knows he would be a valuable presence in dressing rooms, even as a reserve.
*M Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders): A sports hernia prevented Roldan from taking Rave Green’s trip to LA.
D Chris Richards (Crystal Palace): After coming off the bench in Palace’s last two Premier League games, Richards made his first start for his new club in Tuesday’s EFL Cup tie at Oxford United.
^F Josh Sargent (Norwich City): Sargent’s latest streak of goals has him right back in the mix.
Is Josh Sargent among Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie & USMNT’s best?
Josh Sargent grabbed a brace against Millwall at the weekend.
G Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough): Five games on loan from Manchester City, Steffen has not been overly convincing. He was beaten by Tyrese Fornah’s strike from outside the box in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat.
G Matt Turner (Arsenal): The Gunners’ No.2 could see live action when the Prem leaders begin their UEFA Europa League campaign on September 8.
D DeAndre Yedlin (Miami): Yedlin continues to be an ever-present right back for a Miami team now in playoff position after a 4W-1L-2T run.
F Jozy Altidore (Puebla): The 32-year-old was not in manager Nicolás Larcamón’s matchday squad for Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Atlas.
D George Bello (Arminia Beilifeld): Bello continues to struggle in his first season in Germany’s second tier. The 20-year-old was an unused sub in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Heidenheim.
M Gianluca Busio (Venice): Although Busio still starts for the now Serie B side, it may not be enough to earn him a final USMNT audition in September.
D Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic): The solid centre-back is doing everything he can to move up a class and he is close: Carter-Vickers has played every minute of the Scottish leaders’ four league games so far.
F Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough): Hoppe had a spirited 20 minutes off the bench against Reading, committing three fouls and seeing his late shot blocked. But the 21-year-old needs goals to have any chance of a trip to Qatar.
G Ethan Horvath (Luton Town): Against Swansea on Saturday, the well-traveled 27-year-old kept his second clean sheet in five games in England’s championship.
M Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal): Mihailović is likely a long shot for September unless he regains his early season form soon.
D Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes): The 25-year-old central defender has been part of a backline that has conceded 10 goals through three Ligue 1 matches.
D Kevin Parades (Wolfsburg): He did not feature on matchday for the first two weeks of the Bundesliga season but Parades, 19, makes his debut here after playing the last 14 minutes of Saturday’s goalless draw against Schalke.
⌄ F Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati): With 15 goals, Vazquez has earned a callup next month. But Pefok’s hot start in Germany and Sargent’s resurgence, should it continue, keep him off the flight for now.
D Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp): If Berhalter wants a natural left-footed back to back up Jedi Robinson, Vines is the front-runner over Parades and Bello.
F Haji Wright (Antalyaspor): With three goals in three Turkish Super Lig games, Wright keeps pace with his Europe-based rivals.
*D Shaquell Moore (Nashville): Straight back Moore helped set up Nashville’s opener Sunday but was subbed after suffering a non-contact injury.
F Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg): Less than a year away from scoring three big goals during World Cup qualification, the 19-year-old may not crack the September list. He has only played 51 minutes through four games.
D/M James Sands (Rangers): Sands has a huge chance to impress on Wednesday, when the Glasgow club face PSV Eindhoven for a Champions League place.
D Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach): Scally, 19, has played all but six minutes at right-back for Germany’s second-placed side. He quietly argues for inclusion.
M Malik Tillman (Rangers): Rested over the weekend, the versatile attacker will be in line for a high-performance upgrade at PSV.
M Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers): Williamson has been a sub in two of the Timbers’ last three outings. It doesn’t help him.
F Gyasi Zardes (Colorado Rapids): Zardes followed up his August 6 hat-trick with another goal last week, but it will still take something extraordinary for the polarizing veteran to earn serious consideration at this stage.
Removed this week: Daryl Dike, Richy Ledezma.
*Damaged, ^upgraded, ⌄downgraded
One of the leading soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered the USA Men’s and Women’s National Teams at several FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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