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Dest: Best decision was stay with US and not switch to Dutch

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DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) Sergino Dest’s decision to stay with the U.S. national team rather than switch to the Netherlands got a mixed reaction from his Ajax teammates.

“Some of them, they didn’t like it,” Dest said. “Some of them, they said just: `Congratulations: You followed your heart. So that’s always good.”

An 18-year-old outside back who has become an Ajax regular this season, Dest made his U.S. national team debut in September and played exhibitions against Mexico and Uruguay. He skipped last month’s CONCACAF Nations League matches against Cuba and Canada in order to keep his options open, then announced Oct. 28 he was committing to the U.S. program long-term.

“It’s a hard decision, of course, because you are for both of them,” Dest said Wednesday, two days before he likely will make his senior national team competitive debut. “I just made my own decision. It’s my life. If it’s not working out well. I’m the one who is dealing with the trouble.”

Dest has a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother. He came up through the U.S. youth national team programs, playing for the Americans at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.

The Dutch national team, winner of the 1988 European Championship and a three-time World Cup finalist, tried to persuade Dest to ask FIFA for a switch of affiliation. Dest’s American youth team background was stressed by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart when they had lunch with Dest and his father, Ken, on Oct. 24, the day after Dest and Ajax played Chelsea and American star Christian Pulisic in the Champions League.

Dest announced his decision on Oct. 28 and will be cap-tied once he appears in a competitive match.

“He is part of our future and we’re going to make sure that he develops himself to a player that will perform in ’22 and ’26,” Stewart said Tuesday. “What happened in his youth national team career helped the conversations with Sergimo, with his father, with his management in securing him for our U.S. national team, which is great for the program.”

Dest’s decision came 21 months after Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, now 20, switched to Mexico after coming up through the American youth national team program.

LA Galaxy midfielder Efrai­n Ãlvarez, also eligible for the U.S. and Mexico, has made four starts and once substitute appearance for El Tri as it advanced to a Thursday semifinal against the Dutch at the Under-17 World Cup.

Dest said his time with the U.S. program “might be the biggest influence” in his choice.

“I think I made the right decision,” Dest added. “Now I have to make sure that I made a good one and show what I’ve got.”

Stewart, now 50, grew up in the Netherlands with a Dutch mother and a father who was in the U.S. Air Force. He, too, played for a Dutch club and joined the U.S. national team, and played in three World Cups while scoring 17 goals in 101 international appearances from 1990-2004.

“It was very, very similar,” Stewart said, comparing their histories. “His father played an important role, very proud American, ex-military veteran that’s in Europe right now. Very proud that his son is going to play for the U.S. national team as my father was for me.”

Stewart’s experience resonated with Dest.

“It’s always good to hear from people that are also Dutch-American, and they also have a story in the U.S.,” Dest said. “My decision that I made, I listened to everybody’s advice, but it’s just a decision I’m making.”

Dest said his father was pleased, as was his mom.

“I think if I go play for the Netherlands, he would also be happy. He’s just happy when I’m happy. He’s a dad,” Dest said. “They’re just like, `OK, if you want to make that decision then, it’s your life. You have to make your own decisions.”

The U.S., rebuilding after its failure to reach last year’s World Cup, hosts Canada on Friday night at Orlando in another Nations League match, then finishes group play against Cuba at George Town, Cayman Islands. To advance to the semifinals, the Americans must win both games and overcome a goal difference of four against Canada.

In a game Dest skipped last month, the U.S. lost 2-0 at Toronto.

“That’s not going to happen the next game on Friday,” Dest said. “We’re not going to lose.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chelsea storm back for 4-4 draw with Ajax (video)

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Chelsea were late to their own UEFA Champions League party with Ajax on Tuesday, helplessly headed for outright embarrassment by an irresistible side on their own field before busting the door down and turning it into Party of the Year at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Frank Lampard‘s Blues conceded an own goal in under two minutes before drawing level just two minutes later. Ajax went 2-1 and 3-1 ahead on a pair of sensational goals — the kind we’ve come to expect from the young side, even if one technically went down as an own goal — before halftime. Another superb goal from Donny van de Beek made it 4-1, and the game appeared to be done and dusted.

The game was turned on its head in the 68th minute, not long after Cesar Azpilicueta pulled Chelsea back to 4-2. Daley Blind was shown a second yellow for a challenge on Tammy Abraham. Joel Veltman was then shown a second yellow of his own for a handball in the box, a play which occurred just seconds after the referee played advantage on Blind’s infraction.

Jorginho converted his second penalty kick of the game to make it 4-3. 19-year-old Reece James hammered the ball through a sea of bodies to make it 4-4 in the 74th minute, and Azpilicueta thought he’d won it four minutes later, only to have the goal taken away by video review for a handball by Abraham.


Three things

1. Chelsea make it far too easy: Under no circumstances should a cross ever be allowed to bounce inside the penalty area before it’s met by an attacking or defending player. It is the responsibility of the defending team to ensure that is the case, and Chelsea failed to do so when Ajax took the lead for the second (and final) time in the 20th minute.

The amount of space enjoyed by everyone — from the crosser, Ziyech, to the finisher, Van de Beek — should leave every defender in a blue shirt downright embarrassed for their lack of positional awareness and effort.

2. Sometimes brilliance can’t be stopped: Of course, it matters very little how easy you make things when Ziyech is capable of beating you at any time, from anywhere, with something truly spectacular, like this…

3. Pulisic a driving force throughout: Christian Pulisic, played in a central role behind Abraham, was beyond impressive in this game. In truth, he was Chelsea’s best player. On a night that saw most of his teammates fail to impress whatsoever, Pulisic was decisive and dangerous throughout. The 21-year-old American won Chelsea’s early penalty, had a would-be assist spoiled by an offside call and another robbed when Azpilicueta poached a goal from Abraham, set up by Pulisic, that was already going in. That makes three strong outings in his last three starts, and Pulisic has made a strong case for further inclusion in Lampard’s team. Notably, Mason Mount left Tuesday’s game with an injury and could be out for some time.


Man of the match: Hakim Ziyech

The result sees Chelsea and Ajax remain first and second in Group H, as they began the day, only now third-place Valencia sits level with both of them on seven points after thrashing Lille in the group’s other game. With two games left to play, there are two knockout places still very much up for grabs.

LIVE, UCL: Chelsea v. Ajax, Liverpool v. Genk

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Crunch time has arrived in the UEFA Champions League, with Matchweek 4 so important in deciding which teams will reach the last 16.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There is an all-USMNT battle to look forward to as Christian Pulisic and Sergino Dest go head-to-head as Chelsea host Ajax in a pivotal clash at Stamford Bridge.

Premier League leaders and reigning European champs Liverpool host Genk as Jurgen Klopp‘s men aim to make it three-straight wins in the UCL. Elsewhere in Group E, Napoli host RB Salzburg as Jesse Marsch’s youngsters caused them an almighty shock last time out.

Elsewhere, in Group F Inter Milan travel to Borussia Dortmund in a monster clash at the Westfalenstadion. Dortmund need a win to hop above Inter in the standings, with Barcelona in pole position in the group.

Lyon host Benfica in Group G and Valencia head to Lille in Group H.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s late games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League schedule

Group E
Liverpool v. Genk
Napoli v. Red Bull Salzburg

Group F
Borussia Dortmund v. Inter Milan

Group G
Lyon v. Benfica

Group H
Chelsea v. Ajax
Valencia v. Lille

Dest commitment a big win for Berhalter, Stewart’s USMNT

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“Earnie and Gregg’s Excellent Adventure!”

That’s what I Tweeted after seeing the news that Sergino Dest had chosen to represent the USMNT over the Netherlands, a somewhat-stunning reversal after U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and men’s head coach Gregg Berhalter met with the teenage full back this weekend.

[ MORE: USWNT hires new coach ]

A few friends texted to see if I was being sarcastic. After all, this hasn’t been a good few months for the USMNT and I had gone as far as to suggest that many federations would feel justified to make a switch after the Yanks lost in embarrassing fashion against both of its neighbors this Fall.

But no. Dest has chosen the USMNT, and Monday is a wonderful day for U.S. Soccer even if Dest fails to live up to his potential as a decade-long fullback for the red, white, and blue.

Reports out of Holland that Dest would make his decision this week seemed to favor the brilliant Oranje. Others suggested that he was going to choose the Netherlands for sure.

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These decisions are highly-analyzed and sometimes a recruiting nation doesn’t have much hope in gaining the allegiance of a player. In addition to Dest, this century has seen the U.S. lose out on Neven Subotic and Jonathan Gonzalez, but gain Jermaine Jones and Julian Green (amongst others).

But if we’re going to question whether Dest would be lost because Ronald Koeman is an Ajax and Dutch hero, Berhalter played him at left back instead of right, and/or the USSF is a cluster of issues, then we ought to acknowledge that Berhalter and Stewart earning the player’s faith in spite of those facts is really impressive.

Ajax is unbeaten in Eredivisie player and Dest continues to run up the minutes and doesn’t turn 19 until Nov. 3. He might not have been automatic as the Netherlands national team fullback, but he was going to have to seriously regress to not get his chance.

Again, he’s 18 and started for one of the most storied club in Europe and almost certainly the most celebrated club in the country of his birth.

Dest has three assists this season in 913 minutes, averaging a shot per game and passing at an 87 percent clip. He’s an exceptional dribbler. While still very much a teenager in defense, Dest is averaging close to two tackles and an interception per match.

Losing Dest would’ve felt as bad as any dual national since Subotic, who went on to earn 36 caps for Serbia and currently sits on 360 senior appearances between senior club Union Berlin and former teams Borussia Dortmund, Saint-Etienne, Mainz, and Koln. Giuseppe Rossi’s choosing Italy didn’t feel good, but was also fait accompli.

It’s a moral victory for the United States’ supporters and a mild reprieve for Berhalter, whose team’s progress is really stuck in the mud. Dest can play in any system and gives the coach improved hope of implementing his preferred possession-based style.

Yet after the loss of Gonzalez and with big concerns about Mexico’s recruitment of Richie Ledezma, the 19-year-old dual national who just earned his first senior spot on the bench for PSV Eindhoven and is being recruited by Mexico. This is an exhalation, even against the backdrop of the stinging words coming former U.S. midfielder and scout Hugo Perez in an alarming article from The Nation last week.

You can’t help but think the news will ring out loudly to Ledezma, who is close to a senior call-up and could see one next month. Center back Chris Richards, 19, had been chewing up minutes for Bayern Munich II in 3.Liga before a recent illness. Chris Gloster is in the PSV system, and Giovanni Reyna highly regarded at Borussia Dortmund.

Assuming the USMNT pulls it together for the 2022 World Cup, the team could feature Zack Steffen in goal with a back line of Dest, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, and Antonee Robinson. The midfield could be Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Ledezma under a trident of Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah.

The oldest of the bunch would be Brooks and Miazga at 29 and 27.

Excellent, Earnie and Gregg. For Berhalter, this could be his most notable week of work for his country since he made the 2006 World Cup roster.

Chelsea grab huge win late on at Ajax

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Chelsea beat Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam on Wednesday, as substitute Michy Batshuayi scored the winner off a Christian Pulisic assist.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform? ]

Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea now sit top in Group H, leapfrogging Ajax. The hosts hit the post in the second half and were the better team for vast swathes of the game and until Pulisic and Batshuayi came off the bench to cause havoc late on in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

The UEFA Champions League semifinalists from last season had now answer to a mature Chelsea display, as the Blues’ attacking options off the bench made the difference in their sixth-straight win in all competitions.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Ajax started well with and had a penalty shout for handball waved away, then Joel Veltman drilled a shot just wide.

In an end-to-end encounter Mason Mount cut inside but his shot at the near post was saved as the Blues looked dangerous on the counter.

After a poor defensive clearance the ball fell to Hudson-Odoi but he hurried his shot and wasted a glorious chance.

Ajax thought they had taken the lead before half time as Hakim Ziyech’s cross deflected to the back post where Quincy Promes tapped home. After a delay via VAR, the goal was disallowed as Promes was just, just offside.

Promes was in again moments later after good work from USMNT right back Sergino Dest but Cesar Azpilicueta recovered well to block his effort.

In the second half Dusan Tadic was a growing force in the game as Chelsea were pinned back by Ajax.

Edson Alvarez hit the far post with a superb diving header from a corner and moments later Daley Blind forced Kepa into a save.

Christian Pulisic came on for Willian for the final stages as Chelsea tried to regain control of the game and that is what he did for them.

Pulisic cut in from the left time and time against Ajax, getting past Dest to send a shot just wide and a deflected effort then fell to Batshuayi who sent his effort way off target from a glorious position.

But Pulisic then set up the winning goal as he beat Dest on the dribbled and pulled it back for Batshuayi to hammer home the winner as the subs combined to secure a sixth-straight win in all competitions for Lampard, and his biggest yet as Chelsea’s manager.