There was a hush that descended on Carrow Road on 79 minutes when Josh Sargent went down and hit the turf.
On Wednesday, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter told the 22-year-old Norwich forward that he was going to the World Cup, and here he feared for a moment that the dream might be shattered.
The challenge, during Norwich’s 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on Saturday, left Sargent with a kick to his left ankle and a cut to the side of his right knee. He was replaced quickly afterwards.
But when the final whistle came, he had no doubt that it would make his diary difficult for the next few weeks.
“It’s going to be fine. It (the World Cup) crossed my mind, but at the same time I think I knew it wasn’t going to be too bad or I wasn’t going to go there,” Sargent said.
“It definitely hurt a lot. I have no idea what happened. The ankle it went into and that’s what I was worried about at first, then when I stood up I felt more of the cut. But I’ll be fine.
“I think if you overthink (getting injured) and try to play a different way, that would probably lead to an injury, so I just tried to go out there and play the same way I normally do.”
After the initial panic, you could sense that Sargent was beginning to relish the idea of traveling to Qatar, which will happen on Sunday, before joining the USMNT squad ahead of their opening Group B game against Wales on November 21.
They then face England four days later, before rounding off against Iran.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Sargent said. “I’m sure he will when he gets there tomorrow, but obviously I’m very excited.
“Scoring a goal before the World Cup helps my confidence a lot, so I’m really happy to get one. It’s a quick turnaround and then I only have a week to prepare for the first game so I have to prepare for this heat I guess.
“I don’t have much time to really think about it. I think we have a friendly on Thursday but I don’t know who we’re playing so don’t ask me!
“I’ll do my best to stop and smell the roses while I’m there. Just taking small moments and smiling, thinking to yourself that you are here. You have reached the World Cup. But at the same time it’s knowing you have a job to do and getting back to reality as fast as you can.
“It’s a great opportunity. Everyone wants to show off because every club in the world will be watching. So that’s going to be pretty cool.”
Sargent’s World Cup dream began with the emotional video of Berhalter telling his striker the good news.
“I haven’t been able to breathe all day”
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) November 10, 2022
Sargent confirmed that the video was indeed the moment he found out, after he got the call and went to his bedroom to get the news in private. After the call, he enjoyed a lovely moment with his wife Kirsten and their 11-month-old baby, Romy, waiting for him downstairs.
“I didn’t know how it was going to go,” Sargent said The Athletic. “A couple of guys had already called me just to ask if I’d gotten the call yet and did I know if I was going? And I said, no! So I’m not going, I guess.
“I was anxious all day and then he ended up calling me at night, and that’s why you can see that I’m so happy; just because I had no idea how the call was going to go.”
Just as poignant was beating Zach Steffen with his goal. Middlesbrough’s American goalkeeper missed out on a spot on the USMNT team.
Steffen produced an excellent save in the second half to deny Sargent a brace, which also provided a chance for the pair to speak.
“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Sargent said. “I thought that one was coming in and I didn’t get a chance to say hello to him before the game, so I thought it was a good time to say ‘good save’, and then we have to catch up after the game. too.
“I definitely feel for him. I feel for all the guys who have been part of the qualifiers and all the national team camps for so long, and then not going to the World Cup, which every player wants to go to go, it’s disconcerting. I feel for him.”
Steffen may have other opportunities. Sargent’s is imminent. He feels that facing England would probably be the biggest moment of his career so far. It certainly stood out to him when the draw was made.
“Half the people (around his club) say they’ll be happy if he scores against England, and half don’t,” smiled Sargent. “It’s quite big. I know there is history between us and it will be a very good match.
“We have a very young group of boys who have a lot of confidence in themselves and we know who we are up against, we will not shy away from how we want to play. We will bring a lot of energy.”
And with that, Sargent disappeared down a corridor of Carrow Road. The next stop, the World Cup.
(Photo: Getty Images)