ORLANDO —Sergino Dest had every reason to feel nervous heading into Friday’s U.S. Men’s National Team match against Canada. He was set to play in the match that would seal his international soccer fate for life, and a match that was a must-win for a USMNT in danger of crashing out Nations League.
Then there was also the fact that he would be matched up on the same side as Canadian star and fellow young standout Alphonso Davies.
Rather than showing nerves, Dest showed off the poise of a veteran, and the talent of a player worthy of being fought over by prominent national teams as a teenager. Dest flashed his speed, technical quality and fearlessness to help give the USMNT attack a boost, and the defense a solid presence at right back.
“Sergino is a gamer. He’s the type of kid that shows up in a game when the bright lights are on,’ USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter. “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. We’re really happy that he committed to us and you can see his overall display today, how calm and smart he is in some situations. It’s really going to help our program moving forward.”
“I think I just don’t play with stress. I’m never scared to lose a ball,” said Dest, who helped set up the USMNT’s opening goal. “If I lose a ball, I lose a ball, but if you don’t play with confidence, you’re never going to play a really good game. That’s why I always play with confidence. If I lose the ball, that’s it.”
Dest outplayed Davies, helping neutralize the Bayern Munich star, who was instrumental in Canada’s win in October, but who had little impact on Friday.
“It’s always nice to play against good players,” Dest said of facing Davies. “He’s a good player. He plays for Bayern Munich. It’s a challenge for him and for me, so it was nice to play against him.”
Dest said he felt no nerves before the match, or in the lead-up to the match, which was his first with the United States since deciding to play for the USA rather than his native Netherlands. While that fact didn’t faze him, he admitted that the fact Friday’s match was in an official competition, it had more weight to it than the friendlies he had played previously.
“This is official, so it feels like there’s no way back anymore,” Dest said. “I’m proud. I’m proud. It’s an honor to play for the national team. I’m glad that I made this choice.”
So is the USMNT, which now has Dest in the fold, a player capable of playing either right back or left back, and a player who can bolster the defense and attack, as he showed on Friday with his assist and with the promising scoring chance he created for himself, but ultimately missed.
“It feels great if you can do both. I always want to make an impact on the team defensive-wise and attacking-wise,” Dest said. “It’s just too bad I missed that one. I was pissed, but next time, I will score.”
Dest’s confidence shone through on Friday against Canada, offering an exciting glimpse of what USMNT fans will be hoping to see from him for the next decade. He also flashed some of the bravado that was on display earlier in the week, when he guaranteed the United States would not lose to Canada again.
“Some people didn’t like it,” A smiling Dest said of his guarantee. “I don’t care.”