Sergino Dest

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WATCH: Audacious play by USMNT’s Dest starts gorgeous Ajax team goal

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Sergino Dest respects that there’s about to be a big holiday in the United States, so naturally he’s feasting.

The Dutch American right back, 19, used an audacious flick on the touch line to help set up Ajax’s second minute goal against Lille as the Amsterdam set looks to take control of its group after Valencia and Chelsea drew in Spain.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores as Chelsea draws Valencia ]

Hakim Ziyech is the guy who delivered the finishing touch, but the shot and Dest’s flick were just the book ends of a terrific a team goal.

Donny van de Beek knifes Dest’s pass to Zakaria Labyad, who carries down the right before cutting inside for Dusan Tadic.

The ex-Saints forward lays off for Ziyech’s second goal of the UEFA Champions League campaign. He also has four assists after setting up three goals in the 4-4 thriller at Chelsea.

Americans Abroad: Dest assists in Ajax win; Boyd scores

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It was mostly a quiet first weekend back for Americans abroad following the international break, with only two U.S. men’s national team affiliates contributing on the scoresheet.

One of the two was Sergino Dest, who contributed an assist in Ajax’s 4-01win over Heracles on Saturday, despite coming off the bench in the 67th minute.

Over in Germany, Terrence Boyd continues to shine in the country’s third division, scoring his eighth goal of the season for Hallescher FC.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — After a fine run of form, Pulisic went mute in Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City. The 21-year-old started and played 90 minutes, but failed to record any shots and contributed only a single key pass.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin and the Magpies take on Aston Villa on Monday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  The young left back started and played the full 90 minutes as Wigan dropped to Stoke City 2-1 on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old started and played all 90 minutes in Reading’s 1-0 loss to Brentford.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The captain played the full 90 minutes for the Tigers in their 2-2 draw against Middlesborough.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender didn’t dress for QPR.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 2-1 win over QPR on Friday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers didn’t dress for Stoke City, who are on a surprising two-game winning streak.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes started and played 90 minutes in Derby County’s 1-0 win over Preston North End on Saturday.

EFL League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – Gooch remains out with an injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Bundesliga

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started and played 90 in Wolfsburg’s 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie came off the bench and played 17 minutes in Schalke’s 2-0 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen played all 90 minutes in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Saturday. Morales also started and played 90 minutes on Saturday. A tough night for both Americans against the defending champions.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent was left on the bench in Werder Bremen’s loss.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams didn’t dress in RB Leipzig’s 4-0 thumping of Koln on Saturday. Nursing an injury the majority of the season, the midfielder opened up about his frustrations this season.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson watched Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 2-0 loss to Union berlin from the bench this weekend.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Chandler was on the 18 but didn’t play for Frankfurt on Saturday.

Khiry Shelton, Paderborn – The 26-year-old winger dressed but didn’t play in Paderborn’s entertaining 3-3 draw with Borussia Dortmund on Friday.

2. Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – The 24-year-old midfielder, who is having a positive season in the German second division, is out with a knee injury until December.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest came off the bench and recorded an assist in Ajax’s 4-1 win.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played 90 minutes in VVV’s 2-1 victory over FC Twente on Sunday.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — Payne didn’t dress for FC Emmen over the weekend.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a muscular injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordan-Siebatcheu came off the bench and played four minutes in Rennes’ 2-1 loss to Dijon on Saturday.

Honorable Mentions:

Terrence Boyd, Hallescher FC The 28-year-old striker played a mere four minutes on Friday, but he managed to score his eighth goal of the season in stoppage time. With the 3-0 win, Hallescher move third in the 3. Liga table. 

How the USMNT found and kept Dest

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With the stroke of a pen on Gregg Berhalter’s lineup card and the referee’s whistle to finish the game, a 4-1 U.S. Men’s National Team victory over Canada, Sergino Dest officially tied his future to the USMNT. It was arguably the final step in a recruitment that began more than three years ago thanks to a message from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Dave van der Bergh.

Since retiring as a player, the former New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas winger has spent his time coaching youth teams within U.S. Soccer, and in this instance, he was working with then U.S. Under-17 head coach John Hackworth. Hackworth was unavailable for comment on this story.

Dest first came on van der Bergh’s radar from a contact at Ajax, where van der Bergh came through the youth academy, and it led to Dest’s first call-ups to the U.S. U-17s in 2016.

“I was tipped off by people at Ajax that there was a player with a dual nationality, and considering that we had been looking at dual nationalities, that I should take a look at him,” van der Bergh said in an e-mail. “I found out about him through the club itself, actually.

“The first time I saw him, I asked for video footage from Ajax, which they gave to me and that was great. Then I asked a really good friend of mine to take a look at him for us. He is somebody I really trust as far as scouting goes, and he said the same things that I thought I had seen. That’s when I decided to tell John Hackworth about him.”

Hackworth and co. brought Dest along slowly, getting him incorporated in the group. He was a reserve in the 2016 Nike International Friendlies as a 15-year-old, with Sporting KC defender Jaylin Lindsey starting ahead of him at the time.

But while the U.S. Soccer Federation was at turmoil at the top – this was just months after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena after his season with the LA Galaxy wrapped up – Dest was making a very good first impression to the coaches.

“I thought that it was unusual,” former U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team coach Tab Ramos recalled in a phone interview. “Normally, our defenders on youth national teams, 1-on-1 they usually have a lot to learn. I felt that Sergino was one of those defenders that never got beat 1-on-1, and that caught my attention.”

Dest wasn’t part of the U.S. U-17s run to the CONCACAF Under-17 final in 2017, but he earned a spot on the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup roster, and it’s where he became a breakout star for American soccer fans. His impact  play from left back or right back added a new element to the U.S. attack and he held his own defensively.

Since then, Dest has continued to progress for club and country at a rapid rate. He helped lead the U.S. U-20s to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and a run to the quarterfinals at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and for Ajax he went from the U-19s in 2017 to Jong Ajax a year later and now a sure-fire starter at right back for the first team in 2019.

“He just became more and more mature,” Ramos said of Dest’s progression as a player in a short span. “He became more of an impact player on the attacking side of the field, and in general I give the players the freedom to express themselves within the context of the way we want to play. I think he was happy with the way we played and it allowed him to express himself, so it worked really well.”

His success in the Ajax first team of course got the attention of the Dutch National Team, who suddenly had an interest in Dest. In the youth stages, it made more sense for Dest to play with the U.S. because he’d have a better opportunity to play at a youth World Cup. The Netherlands hasn’t made the World Cup at U-20 or U-17 level since they hosted the U-20 World Cup in 2005, a shocking statistic considering all the stars they’ve produced over the years.

Suddenly, Dest was being faced with the prospect of competing for playing time on a team that made the final four less than a decade ago and looks to be surging back to prominence, or staying with the only national team program he’d known. The U.S. stepped up its recruitment in September when Gregg Berhalter called Dest in for a pair of matches, first against Mexico and then against Uruguay, where the teenager started both matches. At the same time, his former coach Ramos was keeping in touch with Dest once he decided in October to take more time to make his decision between the U.S. and the Netherlands.

“I continue to be in contact with Serg like I do with many of the players,” Ramos said. “Basically, my recommendation to him was to go with his heart. I feel like, of course you can listen to your agent and you can listen to people in the press, and you can always choose what’s more convenient to you, for your career. But I think the most important thing when playing for a country is to choose where your heart is. That’s basically what I told him.”

Dest made his decision to stay with the U.S. on October 28, and it was a big win for a USMNT program that had lost promising midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez in a similar situation to Mexico. Even bigger, Ramos noted, was that Dest wasn’t born and raised in the U.S., and his main connection with his nation was through the national team itself.

“I’m very proud of that, because it means he has a trust in our program and he’s confident that he’s going to get the most out of his opportunities that he gets here with our program,” Ramos said. “I think it goes to show the great job Hackworth did with him and how happy he was to be with us in the U-20s that he feels like this is his home.

“You have to remember this a kid who never lived in the U.S., he grew up in Holland, and that the closest thing for being home for him has been our youth national teams. I think he felt comfortable. He’s been comfortable and he felt like we took care of him, and he’s been happy. That’s just my feeling.”

What did we learn about USMNT during Nations League?

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The inaugural Nations League group stage is complete, and the U.S. men’s national team managed to finish top of Group A (on the final day of play) and secure its place in the semifinals next June.

[ MORE: USMNT cruises past Cuba to reach Nations League semis ]

So, what did we learn from the final four (semi-competitive) games of 2019?

No matter the competition, the chance creation isn’t there

Inevitably, eventually, the USMNT ends up attacking its opponents in one of two ways: with long, direct balls up to the forward line, or exclusively through wide attackers and constant crosses into the box. In beating Canada and Cuba by a combined score of 8-1 during this international window, Gregg Berhalter’s team relied almost exclusively on these “tactics.” Predictably, it’s also the default setting when facing tougher competition, such as Mexico and Uruguay earlier in 2019.

Neither of those plans are bad plans, per se, only neither of those plans are what the federation has pursued as its stated goal for the last decade: possession-based soccer featuring ample chance creation from midfield.

Five coaches have taken charge of the USMNT this decade, all with varying levels of promising the above stylistic improvements. Upon completing the USMNT’s final game of the decade, it’s fair to say that all five failed.

The worst part of all is that the presence of Christian Pulisic hardly cures anything. Sure, he’s the craftiest attacking player the U.S. has ever produced, but even a primary playmaker like Pulisic requires a stable midfield behind him to filter the ball upfield and give him a stage on which to perform. Weston McKennie was stellar against Canada on Friday, but he’s proven that, at just 21 years old, he can’t be counted on to that degree game in and game out.

The good news: they’re both 21 years old and have north of 50 caps between them. One day — and it could come soon — everything should click for each of them, at which point we could see them move to operate at a totally different level.


The full backs are suddenly a bright spot

Perhaps it’s a tad hasty to claim the full backs are trending positively, but the current crop of right backs sure looks deeper and more talented than ever before. Sergiño Dest chose to play for the USMNT and is now cap-tied, Reggie Cannon is coming along nicely, and DeAndre Yedlin has proven himself, at the very least, a non-problem plenty of times.

That’s three more reliable full backs than the USMNT has had since Steve Cherundolo retired in 2012. Unfortunately, they all play on the same side of the field.

Tim Ream and Daniel Lovitz, who started at left back  don’t inspire the most confidence or excitement at left back, but perhaps a defense-first option is the way to go given the attacking instincts of all three players on the opposite side.

If Berhalter has truly settled on John Brooks and one of Aaron Long or Matt Mizaga as his starting center backs, then the USMNT heads into 2020 with a relatively stable, non-fluid situation along the backline since… maybe the 2010 World Cup.

Small victories, but victories nonetheless.

Three things we learned from USMNT-Canada

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The USMNT reclaimed its driver’s seat status for the CONCACAF Nations League with a 4-1 defeat of Canada in Orlando on Friday.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s what we gleaned from 90 minutes near Disneyworld.

Berhalter returns the tactical beatdown

Canada coach John Herdman opted to take his most electric attacker, Alphonso Davies, and play him at left back. Yes, he’s played there for Bayern Munich — who is in a defender crisis — but considering what Davies did to the USMNT last month in Toronto, well, what a let off!

Berhalter would’ve learned that he had to punish Canada’s back line, an untested group he didn’t test last month. So while it turned some heads that Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola got start over Josh Sargent and Tyler Boyd, they combined with Jordan Morris to bring industry in spades.

It also helped that Weston McKennie was much better, and that Sergino Dest and John Brooks were available, but credit Berhalter for flipping the script after October’s Ontario humiliation. While his seven changes to the lineup were an exaggerated change — he certainly would’ve preferred to play injured Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic — but it’s good to see the coach recognize the errors of his ways.

Gyasi Zardes flummoxes most of the USMNT fandom

Look: It seemed like next level trolling when Gregg Berhalter called upon his longtime Columbus Crew striker to start over Josh Sargent, but it turned out to be a risk well-rewarded.

The athletic, powerful American striker was a handful for the aforementioned, overmatched back line.

Yes his second goal was deflected past Milan Borjan, and no he’s never going to be the club’s best striker. But considering how often many of us have criticized the continued call-ups of Zardes, he’ll be having an ice cold pint water of water and clinking glasses with Berhalter after the match.

Dest delivers

Ajax right back Sergino Dest is now an American player (“Sandlot” voice) for-ev-er, and the recently-minted 19-year-old was absolute dynamite going forward.

Dest presents a variety of 1v1 moves, as evidenced on a lightning counter that finished short of a goal when he dragged a shot wide of the far post.

If there was any question that the Yanks scored a victory in getting him to commit to the U.S., he answered them all positively. Good on you, Earnie Stewart and Berhalter.