Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest rewarded for seizing the moment

They came off different summers -- one positive, one negative -- but American teenagers Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest both seized opportunities at their European clubs and have been rewarded, earning call-ups to the U.S. national team for friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay.

Sargent, 19, was with the national team in late May, joining the first phase of a 10-day camp in Annapolis, Maryland, that was expected to end with his selection to the USA's Gold Cup roster. That didn't happen. To the surprise of many, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter left him off his 23-player roster, citing the forward's lack of playing time in the spring at Werder Bremen as having set him back.

Not being picked for the Gold Cup might have been the best thing that could have ever happened to Sargent. It allowed him to not miss the start of pre-season training camp at Werder Bremen. Sargent arrived on a mission and quickly moved into a contention for a starting job in the Bremen attack.

Playing time didn't come easily -- he made one brief appearance in Werder Bremen's first two games -- but Sargent started on Saturday and produced a sensational goal, flicking a pass from Nuri Sahin over the opposing keeper and scoring into the empty net in Werder Bremen's 3-2 win over Augsburg.

"He took a negative event and turned it positive," said Berhalter at training on Monday. "It gave him motivation to go back to Werder Bremen and really work for an opportunity. There's nothing better than when players take advantage of that, and he did. And the season has been much of the same. He's hung in there and kept battling. And he was rewarded with a really nice goal and a win over the weekend."

Sargent had been knocking on the first-team door at Werder Bremen for a year. Dest's move into the starting lineup at Ajax, the defending Dutch champion and 2019 UEFA Champions League semifinalist, came out of nowhere.

Dest, 18, started for the USA at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup after spending the 2018-19 season with Ajax O19 and Jong Ajax, its U-19 and reserve team. Less than a year after signing his first pro contract, he was expected to get a look on the first team in preseason but expected to be nothing more than a reserve in the Amsterdam club's deep squad.

Dest got his shots, first at left back in the Dutch version of the Super Cup against PSV -- Argentine Nicolas Tagliafico was just returning from vacation following the Copa America -- and then at right back -- Dutch-born Moroccan Noussair Mazraoui was red carded in the first leg of the Champions League playoff against APOEL.

With millions of dollars in Champions League payments and bonuses and ticket revenues on the line, Dest got the start in the second leg and helped set up the second goal in the 2-0 win that sent Ajax to the group stage, where it will face Chelsea, Valencia and Lille. And on Sunday, Dest was still at right back, ahead of Mazraoui, when Ajax beat Sparta Rotterdam, 4-1, for its third straight Eredivisie win.

Dest's rise is a story Berhalter says happens all the time in soccer. You just never know who it will be or when.

"Everyone has their own progress," Berhalter said. "The speed at which they continue to progress is unpredictable. For him, he got an opportunity, he seized the opportunity, and now he's a starter for Ajax, semifinalist in the Champions League. It happens all the time. You see a guy get an opportunity, take advantage of the opportunity and go [straight up]. You can never tell who is going to happen to or when it's going to happen. Sergino is in a good moment right now. We want to capitalize on that."

Injury Report: Berhalter hoped to see another teenager getting off to a strong start in Europe. He said Tim Weah would have been called into camp but for an injury sustained at the end of training 10 days ago at French club Lille. Weah, 19, was acquired by Lille from Paris St. Germain in July and started the season opener in Ligue 1 and came on as a sub in Lille's second game.

“Weah has a very bad hamstring tear,” Berhalter said. “He’s getting rehab on that now. We would’ve given him a look in this camp. He’s playing for Lille, doing a good job."

Three other European-based players are out with injuries: Tyler Adams, Matt Miazga and DeAndre Yedlin.

“Miazga has the same thing [as Weah but] not as severe,” Berhalter said. “Adams is getting back in, Yedlin is getting back into training. So four players that would normally be at least looking to be involved.”

9 comments about "Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest rewarded for seizing the moment".
  1. beautiful game, September 3, 2019 at 11:03 a.m.

    A good play here and there in a game is not enough. What do these NT players bring to the team table? Do they make things happen? Are they can consistent? Is their efficacy on the mark when it counts? Can they handle pressure? Can they make instictive decisions? I could care less about players like Weah et al when injured. If an NT player can't deliver the goods, get someone else!!! So far, Pulisic is the real deal and others are either a level or more behind him.

  2. frank schoon replied, September 3, 2019 at 11:39 a.m.

    BG, we'll see. And far as Pulisic goes, you're right, but one man doesn't make a team, and we'll see how he's used.....

  3. Wooden Ships replied, September 3, 2019 at 10:32 p.m.

    Bg, you sometimes state the obvious, however all level of players have mis-touches, non-finishes, etc., etc. We have the largest pool of younger players ever, some will develop into credible international players. Selection and managing will determine much. Heard today, a continued concern of Nagbe, was his pessimism with Berhalters assessment of his qualities. Or DN’s belief that it will be more of the same in leading midfield (I feel comfortable with) candidates. I can’t disagree with his perception. 
    The continued evaluation of Berhalter, for me, will be his leaving Pulisic wide. CP is not a central midfielder. If we stand a chance of getting to Qatar and being competitive he needs to start the infusion of our younger talent. We know about most of the Veterans, they will not be difference makers. He needs to commit to Sargent, while still young, he displays-has perhaps the best all around striker skills I’ve seen wearing the National jersey. 

  4. Ginger Peeler replied, September 4, 2019 at 3:51 a.m.

    Ships, I totally agree re: Sargent. The execution of that goal he scored for Werder Bremen was a thing of beauty!!! I’ve been trying to keep track of him for several years now. He used to have a talent for being in the right place at the right time. I’ve only seen one other player ,in the almost 40 years I’ve been following soccer, who displayed the same ability to a high degree.  Without much playing time at WB, I don’t know if Sargent still has it. Keeping my fingers crossed....

  5. R2 Dad, September 5, 2019 at 12:58 a.m.

    In other headlines, "In USMNT camp, Ajax’s Dest won’t commit beyond this month".

    GB seems to think Dest is trying out for the USMNT. In reality, he is giving GB a tryout.
    Based on GB's short track record, this is how I see this playing out:

    Dest gets some minutes with the USMNT, but is given instructions not to cross the centerline and play like Yedlin, with maybe crosses into the box instead of surging forward as needed. Dest, unhappy with the tight collar, dials up Orange, telling them the USNMT doesn’t play the kind of attacking soccer he likes to play (ie Ajax/Dutch soccer). Dest is quickly capped by the Dutch. GB later tells everyone, “He didn’t want to play for the Nats badly enough”.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I see this going sideways very quickly. 

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, September 5, 2019 at 3:35 a.m.

    I don't see GB as the problem, or rather just GB as the problem. GB is a reflection of USSF desire to continue playing as they always have, saying no changes are necessary.

    We went from Sunil Galati in 2011 hiring Jurgen Klingsmann saying that he "advance the program" to USSF officials claiming there was no need for change after the US MNT team failed to qualify for the 2018 finals.

    In my view management of the MNT program hasn't changed, but it should, and now they want the manager of the MNT to manage the WNT program too. Let's see if USSF executives can kill that program too. Good intentions don't excuse incompetence.   

  7. R2 Dad replied, September 5, 2019 at 10:37 a.m.

    spit my tea! Hope I don't need a new keyboard!

  8. beautiful game, September 5, 2019 at 1:13 p.m.

    In reply to Wooden Ships; I'm not talking about missed touches, every player does it...some less some more...I'm talking about the obvious...making things happen when it counts...delivering the goods in the moment...CONSISTENCY!!!! One good play in a game is meaningless when there are two or three bad plays. I look at what players bring to the team table, their package of talent and ability to execute. I could care less about any NT player who has one out of five good game and the rest mediocre efforts which is a liability to the team culture.

  9. Wooden Ships replied, September 5, 2019 at 2:26 p.m.

    I know what you’re saying bg (the obvious) I guess I’m wondering what it is you want? Identifying everyone other than CP as marginal seems unnecessary. 

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