Less than two months after playing for the USA at the Under-20 World Cup, Sergino Dest made his debut for Ajax, the Dutch champion, starting in its 2-0 win over PSV to win the Johan Cruijff
Schaal, the annual Dutch super cup competition between the league and cup champions.
After a strong training camp, Ajax coach Erik ten Hag did not hesitate to start Dest at left back. The 18-year-old Dutch-American started at right back
for the USA at the U-20 World Cup, but he did not miss a beat on the left side, showing off his ability to get forward with his pace and dribbling skills.
Dest almost scored in the second
half, hitting the outside the near post with a left-footed shot in the 75th minute.
"I thought it was going well," he told Ajax TV afterward. "There were a few [bad] moments, but those
are learning moments. I try to be confident because if you are not, you will do crazy things."
Dest moved to Ajax from his hometown team Almere City when he was 11 and signed his
first pro contract last season. He occasionally trained with the first team last season and after finishing up with Jong Ajax, the club's second division team, he got a chance to join the first team
on a full-time basis in training camp.
"As a small child, you dream of this," he said of making his first-team debut. "I don't want to get away from the basics yet and try to hold on to
this. You also dream of winning prizes and if it works out in your first competition, it will be unforgettable."
There is no guarantee how long Dest will be in the lineup or game-day
squad. He still has a lot learn on the defensive end. "He is a great player," analyst Ronald de Boer said on Dutch broadcaster Fox Sports' pregame show, "but often unreliable."
Last summer, Tim Weah, Dest's teammate on the U.S. U-20s, started and scored for Paris St. Germain in the Trophée des Champions, the French super cup, but within a month was out of the
first-team 18 and never returned once PSG was at full strength. He was loaned out to Celtic in January and sold to Lille in July.
Ajax's starting left back should be Nicolas
Tagliafico, who just returned from vacation following the Copa America, where he played for Argentina. Dest's chances of playing at right back are slim. Joel Veltman started at right back
against PSV while Ajax also has Moroccan Noussair Mazraoui and Mexican Edson Alvarez, an offseason signing from Club America.
In the big picture, Dest is just one of a dozen or so new faces in the first team. Like Dest, 19-year-old Perr
Schuurs started on the backline against PSV, and they join other teenagers like Ryan Gravenberch and Jurgen Ekkelenkamp, who are trying to make the jump from Jong Ajax or Ajax O19,
its U-19 team, to the first team.
Ajax has lost only two starters -- Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona and Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus -- but the combined transfer haul of
almost $170 million gave it plenty of money to dabble on the transfer market.
Romanian Razvan Marin, Argentine Lisandro Martinez and Dutchman Quincy Promes, all
offseason acquisitions, started on Saturday against PSV. The other offseason acquisitions were 19-year-old defender Kik Pierie, who was born in Boston, where his father was attending medical
school, and Alvarez.