Josh Sargent is hoping improved tactical understanding and a stronger body can lead to a “breakthrough” campaign with Werder Bremen this season.
Sargent enjoyed a promising debut season for the Bundesliga club, breaking into the first-team in December and scoring a goal in his first appearance.
But his promising start gave way to a lack of playing time in the second half of the year, with Sargent featuring just once in the Bundesliga after February.
That time on the bench was partially to blame for Sargent’s absence from the United States’ Gold Cup roster, which he has since admitted disappointed him but also has acted as motivation.
And the 19-year-old now believes he has a better understanding of what is expected from Werder head coach Florian Kohfeldt, which puts him in a position to potentially have a breakout season.
"I'm now more familiar with how the coach wants to play," Sargent told Weser-Kurier (via Bundesliga.com).
"The coach has sometimes told me after a good finish that you cannot teach it. I think I have a nose for goal in the box.
“Scoring goals is my favorite pastime, it happens instinctively. That's why playing as a center forward suits me best, but I play wherever the coach wants me to.
"The main thing is that I have more playing time. I hope to make my breakthrough soon. If it happens in the new season, it would be great."
In addition to the mental and tactical aspects of the game, Sargent also has a better understanding than this time last year of what is required physically.
He credits the club’s fitness team in helping him become stronger, but not hinder him going forward.
"I feel really good right now, especially compared to my first year at Werder. I’ve learned a lot in this time, also about my body," Sargent said.
"I worked hard with Werder’s fitness coaches. It was about becoming stronger and stronger - but not too much; after all, I still want to be able to walk!
"I am very happy here at Werder at the moment. Now it's about getting more playing time. I'll do anything for it because that's my goal for the new season: more goals and more games."
Kohfeldt has previously indicated Sargent faces a tough battle for playing time with an impressive array of forwards at Werder’s disposal.
Milot Rashica, Johannes Eggestein, Martin Harnik, Claudio Pizarro, Niclas Fullkrug and Luc Ihorst are all in the mix for playing time up front and Sargent knows that he could face an uphill battle to see the field.
"There are again a lot of players in the squad for the same positions, I do not know if my chances have increased," Sargent said. "I can only influence what I give and do. I work as hard as I can to convince the coach to let me play more often."
Among those options is the veteran Pizarro, who has said the upcoming season will be his last.
And Sargent is grateful for the help the 40-year-old Peru international has provided him during his time.
"Claudio is a great help on and off the pitch," Sargent said. "He's great at communicating with the whole team.
"On the pitch, he helps me with tips on many little things. Passing, movement... he is also very important in terms of mentality."