Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera (1) makes a save with pressure from the United States forward Josh Sargent (19) in second half action during an international friendly match between the U.S. men's national team and Uruguay men's national team on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at Busch Stadium. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Josh Sargent, the night started slowly and finished a little earlier than expected. But in between, the striker from O'Fallon, Mo., handled himself well.
Making the start for the United States against world soccer power Uruguay at Busch Stadium, Sargent turned in a solid game before being subbed off in 75th minute of a 1-1 draw before a crowd of 20,625 on Tuesday night.
“It's a dream to play for your National team, but to play in front of your home city is a whole other level,'' said the 19-year-old Sargent, who was in the stands at Busch the last time the American men competed here, in a World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2015. “It's exactly how I thought it would be. It was amazing.”
Tuesday's match also represented a homecoming for another St. Dominic High product, 31-year-old defender Tim Ream, who captained the U.S. for just the third time on Tuesday. Ream, who left right after the game to try to rejoin his Fulham squad in England, was not available for comment after the match.
Ream, who also starred at St. Louis University, played a solid game in the back and came up with a goal-saving blocked shot in the first half.
But Sargent, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound forward who plays professionally for Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, was in demand following the match. He finished Tuesday's contest with 26 touches and one shot _ a header that deflected off the arm of a defender that could've resulted in a U.S. penalty kick.
Sargent, who attended St. Dominic but did not play soccer for the Crusaders, was understandably disappointed about leaving Tuesday's game.
“I was a little upset at that point in the game _ I still felt I could contribute and make a difference,'' he said. “But the fans were unreal and I thought our team had a great response (after losing 3-0 in its last game against Mexico). We still have things to work on, obviously, but I thought as a team, we made a good response tonight against a very good team.”
Ranked fifth in the world, Uruguay took the lead early in the second half on a well-played counterattack goal from Brian Rodriguez, who plays for Major League Soccer's LAFC and was making just his second appearance for his country.
But the Americans, who played a solid game after a bit of a slow start, managed to get the equalizer in the 79th minute when Jordan Morris knocked in a ball after a clearing attempt deflected off U.S. reserve Nick Lima and sailed across the goal mouth.
“I was fortunate that the ball landed where it did,'' Morris said of the sixth goal of his U.S. career. “After dealing with injuries last year, it felt good to get on the scoresheet. It would've been nice to get the win, obviously, but this was a good, positive result for us. As a group, we're making progress and that's what you hope for. We trust in each other and in the coaching staff and need to make sure we're all on the same page.”
Like Morris, Sargent was pleased with the Americans' response on Tuesday after a disappointing 3-0 lost to Mexico on Friday.
“We needed a better response as a team and I thought we had one,'' Sargent said. “For me, I thought it was a good night,. I was on the ball, had some good touches and created some chances in the first half. Unfortunately, we came out a little flat after halftime and gave up the goal. But I thought we responded well after that. It was good to see us respond the way we did. It wasn't the best situation, having the come from behind against a top team like Uruguay, but it was good to see us get the goal and tie it up.”
U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter likes what he's seen of Sargent.
“I think he's handling (the situation) well,'' the coach said. “He's a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders. He's competitive. He's learning to deal with adversity in a good way. In terms of this performance, you gotta remember who he's playing against. These guys he's playing against have been around the block and they understand what it takes to compete at this level. But Josh held his own, and then some. He created a couple of opportunities to score and for me, again, we're talk about a guy who has a great future with us.”
Playing in its last match before taking on Cuba Oct. 11 in its CONCACAF Nations League opener, the U.S. played Tuesday without several regulars, including star midfielder Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Sean Johnson, Weston McKennie, Alfredo Morales and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who released back to their clubs on Saturday.
ST. LOUISAN DAN FLYNN SALUTED
Prior to making comments following Tuesday's match, Berhalter made special mention of St. Louisan Dan Flynn, who's stepping down later this month as CEO and Secretary General of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Flynn's 19-year career at U.S. Soccer coincided with a period of dramatic growth within the organization.
“I just want to, on behalf of the team, I want to thank Dan Flynn for his 19 years of service to U.S. Soccer,'' Berhalter said. “We talk a lot to the players about the heritage of U.S. Soccer and we wouldn't be in the place where we are without Dan Flynn and the hard work he's done to create this environment for the players and the staff.
“We're going to miss Dan and I wanted to make sure to officially recognize him in front of you guys.”