How important was it that the USA snatched 19-year-old Sergino Dest
away from the Netherlands, where he grew up and has been starting for champion Ajax in his first season with the first team?
It took less than two minutes into Friday's Concacaf Champions League match for him to record an assist. Sebastian Lletget played a corner kick into the corner of the penalty area, where Dest's chip was deflected to Jordan Morris, open at the far post to put the ball away for a 1-0 lead.
"We trained on it at training. I had to be there at that point," Dest said later. "It ended up with a goal so I am happy with it. If you score early, it gives you a crazy feeling. It gives you a boost."
Indeed, the USA jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 34 minutes and it cruised to 4-1 win.
Dest started two games at left back in September, but the Mexico and Uruguay games were only friendlies. Until he played in an official competition at the senior level, like the Concacaf Nations League, Dest, who played for the USA at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, was free to file a change of association with FIFA and switch his allegiance to the Netherlands, where he was born and raised to an American father and Dutch mother.
"Now it's official," he said. "I am glad I play for the U.S."
The feeling is mutual. Dest provided the U.S. attack a lift with his play out of right back, and he held his own marking Canada's best player, Bayern Munich teenager Alphonso Davies, who started out at left back.
"Sergino is a gamer," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. "He’s the type of kid that shows up in a game when the bright lights are on. He has no problem performing and we haven’t really seen much like that from a player, the ability to just step up and perform like that."
A Dest header to Paul Arriola started the play that led to the second U.S. goal in the 23rd minute, and the Dutch-American almost scored late in the first half, shooting just wide of the far post after a long run through midfield.
“We’re really happy that he committed to us and you can see his overall quality on display today how calm and smart he is in some situations," added Berhalter. "It’s really going to help our program moving forward.”
Dest has sat out the October matches against Cuba and Canada while he weighed his decision. He met with representatives of both the U.S. and Dutch technical staffs. He missed the 2-0 loss to Canada in Toronto.
"I read we lost for the first time in 34 years," he said. "Let that be the last one."
Photo: Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire