CHESTER, Pa. — Christian Pulisic may have stolen most of the headlines coming into Monday’s game for making his return to the US national team in a stadium less than 100 miles from where he grew up.
But it was a couple of teenagers even younger than him who led the United States to an impressive 3-0 win over Bolivia in an international friendly at Talen Energy Stadium, offering an exciting glimpse toward the future.
Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, 18-year-olds born within two days of each other in February, 2000, both netted their first international goals for the upstart Nats — only the second time two USMNT teenagers scored in the same game in the modern era.
“I don’t think anyone expected Timmy and Josh to combine up top like they did,” 19-year-old midfielder Weston McKennie said. “I think they surprised a lot of people and they surprised me especially, too.”
Sargent, whose heady interception of a goalkeeping clearance led to his 52nd-minute goal, called it an “indescribable” feeling to open his international account. It became even better seven minutes later when Weah joined him in history by smashing home an Antonee Robinson cross and sealing the 3-0 win.
Sargent and Weah were the fourth-and fifth-youngest scorers in US national team history after already becoming the first players born in the 2000s to start for the USMNT.
“We’ve been playing together since a young age, and we were both talking about it, us getting our first goals together,” Sargent said.
“This group is still somewhat new to each other, but guys like Weston, I was in Portugal with him in that camp, and U-17, U-20 guys like Tim, I think it obviously helps out a lot. We’re all just very hungry to prove that we belong on this team, and I think that’s what the biggest thing is.”
Sargent certainly has a proven track record at the youth levels, having scored 25 goals for the US U-17 team and netted another four for the U-20s. But he’s yet to make his professional debut after signing with German club Werder Bremen earlier this year — a fact that did little to deter US interim coach Dave Sarachan from giving him his USMNT debut.
“Josh is a victim of his birth year at Werder Bremen, where he wasn’t allowed to get first-team minutes this year,” US interim coach Dave Sarachan said. “And we’re very thin at the No. 9 position in American soccer. I’m not projecting Josh to be a starter from here on out, but he possesses a certain mentality and frame and why not look at him at a time when you can? We need goal-scorers and we need to give him opportunities.”
Sarachan felt the same way about Weah, who’s also fighting for time at a big European club, Paris Saint-Germain. And Monday’s game presented a perfect opportunity for him to both showcase his enormous potential and work through some of the hiccups any 18-year-old might have.
“He was all over the place,” Sarachan said. “He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level to a guy who was looking to come out of a game where he wasn’t even sure if he was hurt to flying around and beating guys. He was the prototypical young nervous guy. He plays for a club that’s pretty well known so everyone assumes because he’s on the books at a place like PSG, he’s going to be at a certain level. I think he can get there, but he’s not there and so what you saw tonight was a nervous kid.”
Weah admitted he was nervous starting his first game for the USMNT, in part because he’s still so young. But there was nothing but poise and excitement when he saw Robinson’s cross come in and told himself, ‘I’ve got to get there, I’ve got to get this.’
“I love this country,” Weah said. “And scoring for this country, in front of all these fans, was an amazing feeling.”