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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Josh Sargent gets his first Bundesliga start

The Red Baron finally gets his debut start.

Soccer: International Friendly Soccer -Peru at USA David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This was a tough week for most Americans. The midweek Champions League and Europa League games largely didn’t go their way individually or in terms of team performances. In league play, the positive standout performances were also few and far between. However, there was a certain 19-year-old who had a very memorable week. I will continue with the rating system for who I think should be called up for the March friendlies (1 - nowhere near ready, 5 - absolutely call them up)

Germany

Josh Sargent - Striker, Werder Bremen

Two days after his 19th birthday and one year removed from him signing his first professional contract, the St. Louis-native earned his first start on Friday against VFB Stuttgart. Stuttgart struck just moments into the match and were able to frustrate the Bremen attack. Werder Bremen struggled to break down the Stuttgart defense with Sargent starved for service much of the game. He did do well with his poise under pressure in holding it up on several occasions, but his touches were few and far between. In the 61st minute, he was subbed off for Claudio Pizarro with the game level at a goal each. Bremen were unable to find a winner and the draw has Bremen in ninth place, four points behind Bayer Leverkusen for the final Europa League spot. For Sargent, it’s great experience to get his first start. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come. Rating: 4

Weston McKennie - Central Midfielder, Schalke 04

The Gelsenkirchen Swiss Army Knife started again on Wednesday with Manchester City visiting in the Champions League. The 20-year-old became just the eighth USMNT player to play in the Champions League knockout stage as he lined up on the right wing against the Premier League giants. With Manchester City controlling the match and leading 1-0, McKennie made a strong play to win the ball off Daniel Sterling and drive forward before finding Mark Uth. Ultimately, Daniel Caligiuri drew a penalty as his shot deflected off a hand. A few minutes later, Schalke got another penalty and went into the break with a shocking 2-1 lead. In the second half, McKennie took a shot to his groin and was never the same. He struggled to move around and impose his will defensively after the injury and was taken off in the 77th minute. Unfortunately Schalke would go on to surrender the lead as Manchester City would win it 3-2 late. McKennie did well defensively and was a beast in the air but struggled with his passing and wasn’t involved much offensively when he was on the field. Schalke would have to pull off a victory by at least two goals in Manchester to advance to the quarterfinals. The injury he picked up kept him out of the match this weekend. However, he is expected to be fully healthy for the return leg tin Manchester. Rating: 5

Netherlands

Erik Palmer-Brown - Centerback, Manchester City (On Loan at NAC Breda)

EPB responded from last week’s struggles with a strong performance this weekend. Getting his second consecutive start as a left-sided centerback, the 21-year-old had arguably his best performance this season. Groningen put Breda under pressure many times throughout the match, but EPB routinely stepped up and dealt with danger. Palmer-Brown commanded his area in the air and also contributed an impressive 11 clearances. It’s good to see this level of performance from him. Hopefully he can start to show some consistency. Rating: 3

Sergiño Dest - Fullback, AFC Ajax

Dest took a very important step this week. The 18-year-old was spotted training with the first team for the first time. The Dutch-American has made no secret of his desire to get into the first team with the Dutch giants and appears to be well on his way. On Friday, Dest started as usual and went the distance for Ajax’s B team in a 2-0 victory over Telstar. The win has Jong Ajax in eight place in the Eerste Divisie. For Dest, it’s yet another step in the right direction. Rating: 4

Denmark

Emmanuel Sabbi - Winger/Striker, Hobro IK

Sabbi has had a very quiet few months. Hobro has been a mess all season, as they have struggled to generate an attack. Perhaps the match on Sunday could help him regain some confidence. Sabbi started on the bench, but he was subbed on for the injured Martin Mikkelsen in the 40th minute with Hobro leading 1-0. In the 57th minute, Sabbi beat his defender on the right wing and sent in a gorgeous cross for an assist on the second goal.

Hobro would go on to win by that 2-0 scoreline. For Sabbi, it’s good to see him back on the scoresheet for the first time in a very long time. He hadn’t scored or assisted since September 1st despite playing consistently all season. The victory at least temporarily pulls Hobro out of last place in the Danish Superliga. Rating: 3

Argentina

Joel Soñora - Attacking Midfielder, Talleres Cordoba

Soñora earned his first career start in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday as Talleres took on Chilean club Palestino at home. Deployed as a right wingback, Soñora had another solid if unspectacular performance for Talleres in their 2-2 first leg draw. He was subbed off in the 69th minute. The return leg will be played next Wednesday in Santiago. The 22-year-old continues to break through in Argentina and could be an option for the national team if he continues his trajectory, particularly with the lack of attacking midfield options. Rating: 3

United States

George Bello - Left Back, Atlanta United

Bello earned the start as Atlanta United took on Costa Rican club Herediano in the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday. The 17-year-old was deployed as a left wingback in a 3-4-3 by new coach Frank De Boer. Unfortunately, it was largely a night to forget for both Bello and Atlanta United. Bello was forced to defend on an island on many occasions and struggled to hold up. He also struggled to get in position and made a sloppy challenge that would ultimately lead to Herediano taking a 2-0 lead. The second half wasn’t much better as he was slow to react to a runner taking the inside channel that Atlanta was fortunate not to concede a fourth. The 3-1 deficit is certainly possible to overcome, but it was a disappointing start for the defending champions and the highly rated Bello. Rating: 2

Daniel Leyva - Central Midfielder, Seattle Sounders

There’s a 15-year-old turning some heads in the Pacific Northwest. His name is Daniel Leyva and he is one of the few Academy players still sticking with Seattle’s first team as the season nears. Last week, Leyva started and played all 90 minutes for the Sounders in their preseason matchup against Portland. This week, Leyva came on in the second half in their penultimate regular season tune up. Leyva wasn’t in the team for the final preseason game this weekend and is still likely to see most if not all of his time with the Tacoma Defiance of the USL, but it’s impressive that he is making a case at his age. Seattle has been slowly but surely building a very good academy with some outstanding prospects (Marlon Vargas, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Rey Serrano, Danny Robles, etc.). Rating: 1

As always, hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you so much for reading.