Eredivisie

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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.”

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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.

(Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

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.

Koeman reveals Netherlands offer to USMNT product Dest

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Ronald Koeman has revealed that the Dutch Football Association have spoken to Dutch-American defender Sergino Dest about switching his allegiance to the Dutch national team.

After making his international debut last month for the USMNT, Dest, 18, turned down calls up to both the U.S. men’s national team and the Netherlands for their October games.

Dest would have been cap-tied to either nation had he played in their competitive games during the October international window.

Speaking ahead of the Netherlands EURO 2020 qualifier in Rotterdam against Northern Ireland, Koeman confirmed he and the KNVB technical director met with Dest and tried to woo him but didn’t guarantee him a spot on the national team roster.

“Nico-Jan Hoogma and I have spoken with him,” Koeman said. “We have sketched the picture about his future with the Oranje. I don’t promise anyone, but I told him that I see a future for him at the Dutch national team.”

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has previously said that he’s spoken with Dest about his future and that the discussions were positive.

For now, Dest is taking time to decide which nation he wants to play for. And that’s smart.

He’s played for the U.S. men’s national team at youth level and is no doubt going to be a starter for the U.S. for many years to come. A versatile player who is most comfortable at right back, Dest is a regular for Ajax and is the latest gem to develop at their academy. But after playing for the USMNT in friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay last month, was he put off by their style of play and the immense rebuild underway under Berhalter?

With Denzel Dumfries as his main competitor in the right back position, Dest may have to wait for his chance with the Dutch national team. But the Oranje are on their way up under Koeman, having reached the UEFA Nations League final and well on their way to reaching EURO 2020 with Virgil Van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong leading the charge.

This Dutch team could be very good and a force on the global stage for the next 10 years. If you’re Dest, why wouldn’t you want to be part of this?

Can you really say the same about the trajectory of the USMNT under Berhalter? Nope. The USMNT is a program which will be absolutely delighted just to make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and their young core is talented, but not on the same level as the Dutch youngsters Koeman has to work with.

Yes, he obviously has strong feelings about the USMNT and his allegiance at youth level has been crystal clear. But he never expected to be in this position this early in his career, as his dramatic rise at Ajax has the U.S. and the Netherlands involved in a tug-of-war for his services.

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Deconstructing (and reconstructing) FIFA’s silly Best XI

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Over the weekend, following David Silva chipped in his latest goal for Manchester City, I found myself Tweeting whether he’s the most overlooked superstar in Premier League history.

After Monday’s unveiling of the FIFA Best XI at The Best awards ceremony, I started to wonder whether another Man City player deserves that title on a more short-term basis.

That was one issue with the XI, which was head-scratching at best. Yes, international play also plays into this, but 3.5 Real Madrid players on the team is an absolute joke (They were a mess, finished third in La Liga, and left the Champions League in the Round of 16 against Ajax).

[ MORE: Messi win’s men’s honor, City shut out ]

And Eden Hazard over all Premier League attackers and the entire Bundesliga’s offensive force? He was great, but come on.

Here’s the team FIFA honored:

  • Alisson Becker (BRA) – Liverpool
  • Matthijs de Ligt (NED) – Ajax / Juventus
  • Sergio Ramos (ESP) – Real Madrid
  • Virgil Van Dijk (NED) – Liverpool
  • Marcelo (BRA) – Real Madrid
  • Luka Modric (CRO) – Real Madrid
  • Frenkie de Jong (NED) – Ajax/Barcelona
  • Eden Hazard (BEL) – Chelsea/ Real Madrid
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) – Juventus
  • Kylian Mbappe (FRA) – Paris Saint-Germain
  • Lionel Messi (ARG) – Barcelona

Ridiculous, yeah?

Let’s go piece-by-piece and create an XI at the end.

The Trident plus One: Messi, Mbappe, Ronaldo, and Hazard

Maybe Man City and Liverpool fall victim to their own greatness, and the sheer challenge it is to find room for a fourth world class attacker in a Best XI which would be insane to ignore Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Cristiano Ronaldo for their on-field exploits.

But should we?

Let’s get two players out of the way immediately: Messi and Mbappe. Both were miles ahead of the competition as Nos. 1 and 2 last season. In comparable minutes, both outscored Ronaldo in league play by double-digit goals and Serie A

Both also had less productive tridents for most of last season (Neymar was out for most of PSG’s campaign, while Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho weren’t up to snuff alongside Messi and Suarez).

Anyway, that’s a bit of a digression.

Ronaldo’s good-enough season probably got him a career-achievement tiebreaker, and FIFA decided that Eden Hazard was an out-and-out midfielder in their team, so we’ll take some liberties in deciding whether he should’ve been a part of the team.

Should one of them, if not both, have been omitted? We’re here to say we’d like your chances of making the case. These are the league numbers for the four players we’re considering, leaving out Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for now.

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Ellis headline women’s winners ]

Of the four, only Lewandowski had better than a pedestrian group stage in Europe compared to top level peers. The big Polish striker scored eight times, more than the total goals and assists of the others (Hazard was injured for most of the group stage). But like his Bayern teammates, he was unable to score against Liverpool in the knockout rounds.

Sterling is the one we read as underrated for the season he had, with Leroy Sane off his game and Kevin De Bruyne injured for a lot of City’s season. If any City man deserves a shout at the XI, it’s him.

The numbers for Salah and Mane are about even with the group, and Liverpool fans will want to see the team be all-Liverpool given their strong PL season and UCL title, but in our books we want a little better representation. If you want one of them in the fray, we’re taking out Alisson and putting in Ederson.

Feel free to do that mentally when you read our XI, and we’ll be fine with it. Heck, maybe we’ll even do it.

The ‘Real’ problem

So we’ve covered one Real player in Hazard, who legit deserves a shout at the XI.

Sergio Ramos is great, Marcelo is probably the best left-sided non forward of his generation, and Luka Modric has the worst Ballon d’Or in history (N’Golo Kante was better that year, as were Messi and Ronaldo. Committee got cute).

But should even one Real Madrid player be on the FIFA Best XI for the season? I mean, maybe Marcelo if you want true left and right backs, but the team isn’t that with Marcelo and three center backs. But he played in just 23 league matches and Andrew Robertson (who may not make our list because of representation).

What is a true Best XI anyway? It’s supposed to be representative of the season, so Marcelo has to be out. Modric shouldn’t be in there either, but at least he played a ton if you need to appease Real supporters.

Ramos is an interesting one, especially because he was one of the best center backs in the world last season. But he wasn’t as good as De Ligt or Van Dijk. And if you’re going to a back three, which we might want to for our XI, then Aymeric Laporte was better on a better team. And Gerard Pique had a better season than Ramos, too, as Barca won its league and went further in the UCL.

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Our XI

Before we go any further, shout out to Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid. He’s incredible.

We’re keeping Alisson over Ederson, though that one is the one giving us the most pause. We’re removed Hazard for Kante to give our midfield a little beef.

The second most difficult decision was leaving out one of Salah, Hazard, and Sterling. There’s a UCL, UEL, and Premier League winner in there. And Sterling added two other domestic trophies.

We’re taking out Ronaldo in favor of Lewandowski, and admittedly the tiebreaker is because the latter has never won one, which is an absolutely travesty. Ronaldo also had his worst goals per game since he left Manchester United, and Serie A isn’t that far ahead of La Liga in goals-per-game.

What do you think?

Alisson (BRA/Liverpool)
De Ligt (NED/Ajax-Juventus)
Van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
Laporte (FRA/Man City)
Kante (FRA/Chelsea)
De Jong (NED/Ajax-Barcelona)
Sterling (ENG/Man City)
Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
Lewandowski (POL/Bayern)
Mbappe (FRA/PSG)

UEFA Champions League qualifying preview

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Six slots remain in the UEFA Champions League’s 2019-20 group stage, and the 12 teams hoping to fill them begin the final round of qualifying on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are a pair of Americans in the bunch of hopefuls, with Sergino Dest of Ajax and Ethan Horvath of Club Brugge in action on Tuesday.

The fortunes of those players have changed dramatically in recent months.

[ MORE: Julian Green flying high ]

Horvath, 24, was the starter for 34 matches across all competitions last season and the first two matches of this domestic season but has seen nothing but bench since Brugge scooped up Simon Mignolet from Liverpool.

Will Mignolet allowing three goals to Dynamo Kiev have changed anything for manager Philippe Clement? Seems unlikely, but we’ll still keep an eye on the lineup against Austrian side LASK. Ghanaian national teamer Samuel Tetteh is an intriguing player for the hosts, on loan from Red Bull Salzburg.

Dest is still 18 until November and has started Ajax’s last two games at right back. He made his debut at left back in a 2-0 defeat of PSV Eindhoven to start the season, and Ajax is 4-0 with him on the field this season.

While we’re talking Yanks in the UCL, the group stage already has Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Lille’s Timothy Weah, RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, and Red Bull Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch.

Canadian winger Alphonso Davies is with Bayern Munich.

Full schedule

All matches at 3 p.m. ET

Tuesday
APOEL Nicosia v. Ajax
CFR Cluj v. Slavia Prague
LASK v. Club Brugge

Wednesday
Dinamo Zagreb v. Rosenborg
Olympiacos v. Krasnodar
Young Boys v. Red Star Belgrade