There was a hush that descended over Carrow Road in the 79th minute when Josh Sargent went to the floor and hit the turf.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old Norwich forward was told by USMNT head coach Greg Berhalter that he was going to the World Cup, and here he feared for a moment that the dream could be dashed.
The challenge during Norwich’s 2-1 defeat by 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 with the final whistle, there was no doubt it would put a damper on his diary for the next few weeks.
“It’s going to be OK. 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,” Sargent said.
“It definitely hurt a lot. I have no idea what happened. The ankle he went in on and that was what I was worried about at first, then when I stood up I felt the cut even more. But I’ll be fine.
“I think if you think about it (getting injured) too much and try to play a different way, it’s probably going to lead to an injury, so I just tried to go out there and play the same way I normally do.”
With the initial panic over, you can sense Sargent is 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 it will when I arrive tomorrow, but obviously I’m very excited.
“Scoring a goal before the World Cup helps my confidence a lot, so I’m very happy to have achieved it. It’s a quick turnaround and then I only have a week to prepare for the first game so I have to prepare for the hot weather I guess.
“I really don’t have much time to think about it. I guess 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 take a few moments and smile thinking you are here. You’ve made it to the World Cup. But at the same time, it’s knowing you have work to do and getting back to reality as quickly as possible.
“This is a great opportunity. Everyone wants to show off because every club in the world will be watching. So it’s going to be pretty cool.”
Sargent’s World Cup dream began with a heart-warming video of Berhalter breaking the good news to his striker.
“I can’t breathe all day”
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) November 10, 2022
Sargent confirmed the video was real the moment he found out after getting the call and headed to his bedroom to get the news in private. After the call, he enjoyed a lovely moment with his wife Kirsten and 11-month-old baby Romy, who were waiting for him downstairs.
“I didn’t know how it was going to go,” Sargent said Athletic. “I’ve had a few guys call me already just to ask if I’ve gotten the call yet and do I know if I’m going? And I said to myself, no! So, I guess I won’t go.
“I was just worried all day and then he called me at night and that’s why you see I’m so happy; simply because I had no idea how the call was going to go.”
Equally touching was Zach Steffen’s win with his goal. Middlesbrough’s American goalkeeper missed out on a spot in the USMNT squad.
Steffen pulled off an excellent save in the second half to deny Sargent a hole, which also gave the pair a chance to chat.
“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Sargent said. “I thought one was going in and I didn’t get the chance to congratulate him before the game so I thought it was a good time to say ‘nice save’ then we should cut the catch up after the game as well.
“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, it’s heartbreaking. I feel for him.”
Steffen may get other opportunities. Sargent is inevitable. He thinks the England match will probably be the biggest moment of his career so far. It certainly stood out to him when the draw was initially made.
“Half the people (around his club) say they’ll be happy if I score against England and half of them don’t,” smiled Sargent. “It’s quite big. I know there is history between us and it will be a really good match.
“We have a very young group of guys who are very confident and we know whoever we come up against we are not going to deviate from the way we want to play. We will bring a lot of energy.”
And with that Sargent disappeared down the Carrow Road corridor. Next stop is the World Cup.
(Photo: Getty Images)