Both the United States and Mexico had two Nations League fixtures this week, so in the spirit of those matches, we are going to highlight two of their respective stars who play abroad; Josh Sargent and Raul Jimenez.
Both players scored braces during the international break to help their countries finish atop their groups in the initial stage of the Nations League. Mexico’s Jimenez got the start in their first match against Panama in Panama City last Thursday and it was well earned. So far this season, he has been one of Wolves’ best players scoring 13 goals and playing in all 22 matches. He has proven that he is Mexico’s best pure striker in their system and his combination of size, speed, skill and finishing is one of the best in the world. For his first goal in the 8th minute against Panama, Jimenez found a pocket of space after a delayed run in the box and received a great ball from Roberto Alvarado. His powerful one-touch finish to the back post was more than enough to put Mexico 1-0 up.
The 28-year old’s second goal came in a much easier fashion. Over the last few years, Jimenez has picked up the clutch ability to score penalty kicks, going 5/5 for Wolves and 5/6 for Mexico. After Uriel Antuna was fouled from behind in the box in the 84th minute, Mexico were granted a penalty and there was only one man who would take it. Jimenez tucked away his 6th penalty for his country and sealed the 3-0 win. Mexico now move on to face Costa Rica in the Nations League semi-final.
From El Tri to El Tri’s biggest rival, the United States. At 19-years-old, Josh Sargent is clearly the United States’ best striking prospect, playing consistently for his club Werder Bremen this season. He rightfully got the chance to start in their final Nation’s League match against Cuba in the Cayman Islands on Tuesday and it didn’t take long for him to get the first goal of the game. Just 41 seconds in, a cross from Paul Arriola was poorly defended and swept home from Sargent who was sitting just two yards in front of the goal line. It was clear at this point that the Americans were going to run away with this match, giving Sargent more chances throughout the match.
In the 66th minute, the teenager got his second goal after a Reggie Cannon cross was cleverly flicked backwards at the back post right to a wide open Josh Sargent. His left-footed one-timer was too much for the Cuban goalkeeper and it secured his first ever brace in his senior international career. The United States went on to win 4-0 against Cuba, securing a spot in the Nations League semifinals against Honduras.
If things go as planned for these two rival nations, they’ll likely meet in the Nations League Final in June of 2020.