Sergiño Dest has committed to play for the USMNT.
Didn’t see that one coming!
No, seriously, see for yourself:
The American Dream continues…🇺🇸
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) October 28, 2019
Why did Dest choose the US?
Let’s start with the question of whether 18-year-old Dest made this decision because he truly believes in Gregg Berhalter, or because he doesn’t like his chances at breaking into the Dutch line-up, which is considerably stronger than what the U.S. is working with. The answer, considering the state of the USMNT, has to be “who cares??” The teenage dual national was choosing between the U.S. and the Netherlands, where he was born. It’s somewhat very surprising that anyone would want to tie their future to the group that was last seen getting embarrassed by Canada, but we’ll take it!
If we want to give the question a little more careful analysis, we can start by judging his expression and what he says in the video above to announce the decision. He doesn’t appear overjoyed, and talks about how tough it was to choose between the two. Is that because both were great options, or because he felt like he was settling? The pessimist/realist in me would go with the latter, but I think the appropriate reaction is to be excited about this.
Regardless of why Dest made this choice, this is extremely welcome news. At the risk of overstating the impact of a teenager’s decision, his commitment to Berhalter’s team makes today the best day for U.S. Soccer since … who knows? It’s been a while since there was anything to really be excited about, unless you count Christian Pulisic’s hat trick over the weekend.
But when Dest’s club team, Ajax (a squad you should be watching, if you’re not already), tweeted at 11:19 a.m. Eastern that he would be playing for the U.S., it was cause for celebration.
Who is Sergiño Dest?
Fortunately, Dest is not the only young American playing in a good European domestic league and or the Champions League. But he’s on a short list. And the fact he’s starting for a squad as good as Ajax at his age means his future is as bright as any U.S. prospect.
It’s not as if he’s in and out of the Ajax line-up, either. He has played 90 minutes in all three of his club’s Champions League group stage games. He’s been somewhat anonymous over those 270 minutes — which is a good thing for a defender — but earned solid WhoScored ratings of 7.45 vs. Lille on September 17, 6.73 vs. Valencia on October 2 and 6.23 vs. Chelsea on October 23. He also has three assists in his last two Eredivisie matches. So seriously, go watch Ajax, and keep an eye on the right back in the No. 28 shirt.
Though he plays right back for Ajax, he lined up on the left for the U.S. in both his appearances with the senior team. Regardless of where he ends up spending more of his time, he’s a massive boost for the U.S. program.
Now let’s see if he can spark his team to a win over Canada on November 15 in Orlando when the U.S. plays a rematch of that nightmare (check out that night’s High Press Pod for more on how awful that performance was), which he sat out while deliberating over his international future.
Embarrassment of riches?
OK, “embarrassment of riches” is an overstatement regarding the USMNT talent pool. But Berhalter’s defenders include Dest, DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and John Brooks (Wolfsburg). In the midfield, he has Pulisic, Weston McKennie (Schalke) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig). And we haven’t even mentioned Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf) or promising young forwards Timothy Weah (Lille) and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen).
While that core probably won’t scare Germany or France, it’s more than enough for the red, white and blue to be winning comfortably against everyone in CONCACAF besides Mexico. And with Dest in the mix, another effort or two like what we saw vs. Canada should cause USSF to realize the players aren’t the problem, not that they were before Dest joined the fold today.