Sergiño Dest is sticking with the United States men’s national team. In a major coup for the sputtering American program, the 18-year-old Dutch-born dual national — who has established himself as the starting right back for Champions League mainstay Ajax this season — announced on the club’s website that he’s going to continue playing for the the USMNT.
Dest has represented the U.S. at the under-17 and U-20 FIFA World Cups and made his first two appearances for the senior team last month, starting matches against Uruguay and Mexico. But his emergence with Ajax this season caught the attention of the Royal Dutch Football Association, with Ronald Koeman, the Netherlands senior team manager, actively recruiting the player.
“It was a tough decision for me,” Dest told U.S. Soccer’s website. “But I have built up a very good feeling with team USA over the last couple of years and I strongly believe in the plans and potential of U.S. Soccer. I am therefore dedicated to making the next 10-15 years a big success and will do my utmost to help the team play for titles.”
Dest sat out this month’s international window as he weighed his options; as opposed to last month’s friendlies, playing for the U.S. in its CONCACAF Nations League games against Cuba and Canada would have tied him permanently to the American program. But in the end, the teenager opted not to petition FIFA for a one-time switch of national association.
Dest and American father, Kenneth, met with USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart over in Amsterdam last Thursday, where he is believed to have informed the pair of his intention to commit his future the U.S.
“We are excited that Sergiño will continue with our program,” said Stewart, who was also born and raised in the Netherlands and represented the U.S. at three senior World Cups. “In all of our discussions, Sergiño expressed the comfort he feels within the group and his appreciation for the commitment the federation has made along the way.
“As a dual national myself, I understand the choices that these young players face. Our job is to provide a clear pathway and maintain honest and open communication, and then ultimately it comes down to a personal decision.”
That decision gives the U.S. a blue-chip fullback to add to a stable of young talent that includes 21-year-old Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic, 20-year-old German Bundesliga standouts Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, and fellow teenagers Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. Dest will now be expected to start the rematches with Cuba and Canada — which beat the USMNT on Oct. 15 for the first time in 34 years — next month, games that would officially cap-tie him to the U.S. Dest is technical enough to play both right and left back, a position that the U.S. has struggled to fill historically, and he’s also able to contribute offensively.
The loss in Toronto was seen as the darkest moment for the U.S. program since it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But some optimism has returned over the last week, as Pulisic turned in a pair of match-winning performances for Chelsea, including a hat trick against Burnley Saturday. Add in the news on Dest, and it’s been a pretty good few days for the USMNT.
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