When Dave Sarachan called a roster with an average age of 22 years young to Philadelphia, it afforded an opportunity for rising talent to take center stage. Talen Energy Stadium provided the venue for that youth to shine as three players aged 25 and younger scored their first international goals. Walker Zimmerman provided the warm-up act, and the second half saw 18-year-olds Josh Sargent and Tim Weah make some history with goals that illustrate the MNT’s burgeoning potential.
WALKER ZIMMERMAN, 37TH MINUTE
Led by its young attackers, the USA offense knocked on the door for much of the first half. It took 25-year-old defender Walker Zimmerman, one of the field, to bust it open.
The opportunity was won by Weston McKennie, who played a relentless game at the defensive midfield spot. Late in the opening frame, the 19-year-old pressed forward on a run up the right side, and his defender poked the ball out on the end line to grant the USA a corner kick. Instead of the usual mass inside the box, the USA staggered its players throughout the opposition penalty box on the set piece. Joe Corona lined up to take the kick and Zimmerman lurked in the back of a group near the top of the box until Corona’s approach, then stepped forward onto the penalty spot.
Corona swung the ball out beyond the six-yard line. With only one Bolivian defender in position to fully mark him, the six-foot-three, Zimmerman rose above Ronald Raldes and headed the ball into the top right corner as Bolivian goalkeeper Guillermo Vizcarra stood frozen between the sticks.
“It’s definitely a moment that I’ve been looking forward to my whole career,” Zimmerman said. “It’s something that I’m going to remember forever and something that I can pull out and show my kids one day.”
JOSH SARGENT, 52ND MINUTE
The USA’s starting lineup took the field with an average age of 22 years and 160 days. Such a young XI produced moments of youthful vigor, led in part by forward Josh Sargent. He assumed a position up top as the lone forward and struck when the Bolivian defense got caught in a lackadaisical passing exchange.
Content to pass around in their defensive third and wait for things to open up downfield, Bolivia was let down when goalkeeper Carlos Lampe passed back and forth with his defenders. As Sargent prowled nearby, Lampe looked to play the ball to his center back, but didn’t put enough strength into a chipped pass that Sargent intercepted with a nifty over-the-shoulder trap. Already inside the penalty area, Sargent turned on goal, teed up, and sent a hard-hit ball on frame. It bounced off Lampe’s shins and into the back of the net.
The goal fits a pattern for Sargent as it was only about a year ago that he scored in his debut game at the U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic. Seven months ago, he scored in the opening match at the U-17 World Cup in India.
Sargent also made a bit of history. At 18 years, 102 days, the O’Fallon, Mo., product became the second-youngest player in the MNT’s modern era to score in his debut. For the moment, he also became the fourth youngest player to tally all-time for the MNT.
“I feel very proud of myself being able to come into this game and provide for the team,” Sargent said. “I’m just very happy to be able to score today. I was really excited getting out here and being able to train with the team the whole week and play in this game. I think there’s a great generation coming through. I think the fans have a lot to look forward too.”
TIM WEAH, 59TH MINUTE
Tim Weah made some of the MNT’s most exciting offensive runs in the first half, but couldn’t quite find a finishing touch early on. He would fly down the right wing or up the middle with only the ‘keeper to beat, but was foiled on his attempts to complete the play and ripple the net. Come the second half, Weah found his touch and broke through with a well-taken volley.
Antonee Robinson did most of the hard work on the left wing. Played out of the back by fellow, MNT debutante Erik Palmer-Brown, Robinson took the ball on the run. Once he found his way past midfield, the speedy left back got shifty. He used some fancy footwork to slip past a defender. Gliding towards the end line, Robinson ripped a low, left-footed cross that found Weah at the top of the six-yard box.
With a dash of pace, Weah glided between two Bolivian defenders to take in Robinson’s ball. He needed only one beautiful, right-footed touch on the cross to lift it above Lampe and into the back of the net.
Born just two days after Sargent, Weah (18 years, 100 days) jumped ahead of his former U-17 MNT teammate, becoming the fourth youngest to record a goal for the MNT and pushing Sargent to fifth all-time.