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Gregg Berhalter on Sergiño Dest: “The sky’s the limit for him”


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sergiño Dest has received both praise and criticism during the early days of his U.S. men’s national team career, but Wednesday’s performance from the Barcelona right back was the latest example of his growing potential on the international stage.

Dest returned to action for the USMNT and netted the equalizing goal in a 2-1 comeback win over Costa Rica in Concacaf World Cup qualifying. His rocket left-footed shot in the 25th minute helped spark Gregg Berhalter’s side to an important three points and a winning end to their October schedule.

The 20-year-old finished the match with 73 minutes under his belt and a strong two-way outing for the hosts, showing again what he can provide to the USMNT for years to come.

“Sergiño is an interesting player because it’s almost like the sky’s the limit for him,” Berhalter said. “He can be as good as he wants to be and you saw today with his attacking play. It’s unreal.

“With him and Yunus [Musah] on the side together, and Brenden [Aaronson], it’s very difficult to deal with for the opponent,” Berhalter said. “But, for Serge, it’s just hanging in there mentally, really pushing himself to be the best when he’s on the field. And I think in these moments again, we’re forgetting how young of a player he is. A lot of times, defenders rely on experience, and he just needs to gain experience.”

Dest did not feature in the USMNT’s 1-0 loss to Panama on October 10, but returned to the starting lineup Wednesday in a crucial match for the Americans. He watched as the USMNT fell down early to a Keysher Fuller opening goal in the first minute, but helped the hosts fight back and tie things up with a missile of a finish for his first-career qualifying goal.

Not only did Dest deliver the spark to the USMNT’s comeback, he was strong on both sides of the field. He won five of his 11 duels overall and was a lively force on the right wing, bombing upfield and keeping the pressure on the Ticos for a majority of the match.

Dest watched the final 20 minutes from the sidelines as his teammates completed the victory, staying in second place in the octagonal round table. The right back wasn’t pinned as a player to deliver in front of goal ahead of Wednesday’s match, but heads back to Spain with confidence and a first finish of the new season in all competitions.

“It’s an amazing feeling because it’s a really important goal and it was a really nice goal so it’s an amazing feeling,” Dest said. “At that moment, I was just happy, I was so happy , because we were 1-0 down so it was really important. I was just running to my teammates, because we all do this together so I think we needed that moment.

“It’s great to play against [Keylor] Navas again,” Dest said after scoring for the second time against Navas in his professional career. “Last year, my shot didn’t go in the remontada against PSG, but today it went in and I was really happy with it.”

Dest now departs USMNT duty with two more appearances in his back pocket as he prepares for a busy run at club level with Barcelona. The former Ajax defender will look to play a key role for Ronald Koeman’s squad, which has seven matches on its schedule before November’s international window.

Up next for Dest is a league date with Valencia, which features a possible showdown with USMNT teammate Yunus Musah on Sunday. Barcelona also has its first showdown with Real Madrid on October 24, and a home-and-away set of UEFA Champions League matches against Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv over the next two weeks.

It will be a busy period for Dest and Barcelona, but the young fullback continues to receive support from Berhalter going forward in his career.

“He’s doing a great job,” Berhalter said. “Now, he’s played over 60 games for Barcelona already. It’s a really impressive record. He just needs to keep working.”


  1. Dest’s made strides on the defensive side of the ball, especially in d transition imo, since the summer even. He also bounces up quickly after he gets barreled over and gets right back into it. Those things weren’t happening consistently before. he was the old get beat stay beat, but he’s coming along with that piece seems to me. Aaronson the perfect guy on his side to play with because of his workrate. Dest does remain imperfect however to those noting that. Of course all remain imperfect, wanted to note that too

    • I feel like people pick on Dest a lot more then they should. In the Canada game people act like he was horrible but when he was taken off you could see the big dropoff on defense from that point and the rest of the game from our RB. Just glad he is able to put together some good games so people can just get off his back

  2. It is amazing how much a person can love to hear themselves talk…or type as it is here at SBI, and I ain’t talking about Larry or Ives…lol.

    • yeah, I’m not sure most of us are here for the “content” such as it is – though Ives does have some solid contacts and gets some good scoops periodically.

  3. dude, be a coach and not a fanboy. “great goal. but we’re going to chat about allowing that cross for the goal we conceded, compounded by keeping them onside….”

    • Yeah he got best on a very quick counter. Truth is had McKennie hustled back and marked the late runner that he was jogging behind, it wouldn’t happen resulted in a goal. Once he tried to stop the cross , ghere was no way he could have gotten back up field to make the forward offside. He has to defend the cross. He problem was when he ball wstched for a second in midfield, in my opinion. But mine is not an “IMPERATIVE VOICE.” :).

    • None of us are coaches, at least not of this team. Managers at Ajax and Barcelona, and Tab Ramos and John Hackworth have all felt his offensive contributions were good enough to make up for his defense. Not too mention managers at Bayern, Arsenal, Dortmund, and Monaco who put out serious offers to bring him in just this Summer. If you like a more defensive FB fine but don’t act like only a fool would play him.

      • listen, you can conflate “interest” with “purchase,” you can pretend the interested weren’t also considering “i would teach him to play defense if we did buy,” but the put up or shut up point would be he has some pretty substantial goals allowed, sometimes we overcome it, sometimes we don’t, and from my perspective it nets out even or worse, like the college game i assisted on a cross playing wing then got caught up for a goal the other way. but that was wing mid. i’m talking wingback. i am uncomfortable with a back who has routine goals allowed issues. wrong game at qatar one goal may be too much to overcome. you can try and make this into coke vs pepsi but i appreciate his attacking and have offered a 3rd way — he becomes a wing attacker. but for the purposes of this thread i find it exasperating that the guy who dug your hole to start with gets MOTM for scoring his own equalizer, even a gorgeous one. after my mixed bag college game, let’s say the first thing we discussed in film review was not how i put a perfect cross on the striker with my weak foot….it was how did you let that guy in behind you that bad. this is a good team with serious flaws that it would do well to address if it wants to be better than 2nd place and like a mixed bag of fun and dread.

    • @THE IMPERATIVE VOICE, Yes, we know. Your fanboy is Shaq Moore. You always wanted Moore to start. I’m glad he did not.

  4. It doesn’t hurt that he plays for Barcelona, even when they are in a down year for them. At a club like that intra squad scrimmages are probably more challenging than a lot of league games at other clubs. The level of competition a player faces week in and week out definitely makes a difference, too. I dare say that teams like Athletico Madrid and Real Madrid are better than any CONCACAF national teams.

    • sorry but this is the essence of the Big Club theory and it doesn’t follow. it conflates (a) player x was signed to big club because they were already manifesting talent with (b) player x displays talent at big club because he got it there. big clubs have bigger checkbooks than everyone else and thus can attract more talent than anyone else. they then instill their own priorities and/or favor players that display what they already want. dest is the epitome of barca. for good or ill they don’t necessarily learn to play much defense. dest wouldn’t be bought by, or make an atletico madrid lineup because he can’t consistently defend. so being a barca signing may be a signal, but it’s a particular thing signal. there are some elite teams i would assume your status there means you have your all around stuff together — though depending if you are a transfer or not maybe your youth club instead deserves the primary credit (i mean, FCD keeps raising up kids and some european team takes the credit……). there are other teams that are more esoteric and the signal is you fit there. you may be one-dimensional, and very good at that. jozy was only good in certain environments that played certain ways. dest at this point still plays like a dutch wingback never taught how to play defense. he was obviously taught well going forward. he has not been taught to defend. if Big Club theory held water, that would be fixed by now. like Yedlin was going to have the wrinkles ironed out by Newcastle. often enough, same player in, same player out……to me it’s a stamp of approval more than it’s a college diploma earned at the club you sign with. they are looking for a finished product. particularly if they have quirks or priorities they may spend little or no time fixing any issues you have. not my priority. or, i signed him as a transfer and if he doesn’t figure it out for himself, i will loan/sell him and buy someone else who does do it. i think there is limited education in the process, particularly of the “let me take you from 0-60 as a defender” type learning. part of the problem here is usually you pick defenders as kids to train up because they display some native knack for defense in their teens. this is more like what happens when some cute coach mad scientists the position and decides i think i can get away with converting a wing backwards, eg, eddie lewis. and then you almost start from scratch…..

      • This kind of baloney just doesn’t make sense. If it were true, then players who are one dimensional or play well only for a certain approach/club wouldn’t be selected for national teams. Nor would they be purchased by other teams at high transfer fees. You theory would argue that a team makes a player good when it is the players that make a team good. I’ve seen this same kind of argument used in education by ignorant people. They will see certain schools have better test scores or other results than other school and conclude that those schools must be run better. The truth is you could transfer all the students from a bad school to a good school and vice versa and watch the outputs follow the students, not the schools. You’ve been pushing this baloney for a long time. By your reckoning someone doing great in the USL would be a better choice than someone sitting on the bench at Bayern. That is just insanity. Football is a free market and price almost always reflects quality and when it doesn’t the person loses value quickly. If teams were spending a lot only because they want to, regardless of quality, then teams like Man City, Real Madrid, and other traditional powers wouldn’t be traditional powers. Man City was never better than mid-table until they were bought by Middle East money. Likewise Chelsea went a long time without winning any trophies until they were bought by the Russian billionaire.

      • you’re selling an inaccurate argument. i went to a good but not elite academically strong college (where i also played soccer). i did a summer semester at an ivy, made As and Bs. i got in one and not the other because i was a lazy student in gifted classes who made strong test scores. i didn’t have the GPA. but my test scores overlapped with the back end of an ivy, and in practice, i learned i could in fact handle their classes just fine. i didn’t make the highest grades. i probably left a modest impression on professors with the brightest students. i did learn the truly smartest kids at an ivy are amazing. the sort who have a perfect SAT. but that is not everyone there, and so it’s a misleading representation of the full student body. IMO — someone fairly bright with a B+ or higher GPA at a good school could hack an ivy in the same subject. and some people who got into harvard flunk out because they looked better on paper than in reality. this is why “transfers” exist.

        dragging this over to soccer, it’s why the transfer market exists. the venn diagram between bayern, chelsea, FCD academy, and red bull new york overlaps for at least some people. if there were no UK permit rules or german player limits, it would overlap even more. and not everyone at bayern is lewandowski, and not everyone at red bull new york is some bench scrub. in between there is overlap, which is why with a piece of paper and some cash adams is from here to there. and that reflects the scouting is clearly not perfect, players get over- or under-rated.

        over the years i stopped conference players of the year, hermann award winners, minor league pro teams with guys who got MLS minutes. i was always able to scale up to the next level. some aren’t.

        in terms of “education,” you are conflating academy kids with transfers. FCD academy trained up mckennie, cannon, etc. schalke, juve, etc. then by your argument get the credit. what i was always taught was pro coaches are spending their time on scheme, scrimmages, drills to address nagging issues. they are not fixing players with schoolboy problems, it would take too long. if you need that bad a fix — eddie johnson — they get rid of you and buy another forward. see, i would buy it if you were selling, ajax youth made dest. i buy it less when you’re saying barca is responsible for dest. dest was doing dest things before barca got mitts on him. i think people making your argument overrate “competition” and underrate “GM work” or “academy teaching.”

        to underline the fallacies in your argument, weah and horvath have been my two favorite examples. weah starts half the time. horvath has been on benches for years. both are high level NT players. if “club competition” mattered so much, something would be wrong with them and they would be bad NT players. but weah chooses to be a role player on a championship team. and horvath is talented no matter how dumb his career decisions are. their club status vs country utility does not reflect your darwinian ideas. one can be talented and yet benched. because checkbooks.

        i think they might learn some, small things, tactical stuff, maybe they get little issues fixed. but people like y’all try to argue newcastle is going to fix yedlin from scratch. they clearly quit and bought someone else. and he looks the same. to me players that grow incredibly as players after their early 20s are the exception, not the rule. dempsey and a couple others. most players are what they are and maybe get a little fitter, pick up an injury problem, fill out a little. they don’t get the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree for being picked up as a transfer. they get drilled in a system and maybe taught a few things within it. but at that point they are no longer being taught, here is how you defend, here is how to hit an instep drive. they buy you for that. if you don’t have it they buy someone else and loan/sell you on back out.

      • also, re your “they wouldn’t make bad transfers,” except they routinely do. teams spend x number hours watching your games and tape. they make educated guesses how good you are and that you’ve been trained up right. sometimes they pegged you. sometimes they missed something. whole point is they weren’t your youth team since you were U10. ajax might know your defensive issues. barca watches the wrong games scouting and maybe they don’t. or, and you don’t seem to consider this — like berhalter — maybe they are making a trade off in their heads. they think the positives outweigh the negatives. then he scores less or allows more goals than they hoped. they calculated. they miscalculated.

        or, maybe a team knows someone has an issue, but they set out to play a certain way that makes it ok. barca has a particular idea of soccer akin to ajax’s. but if they buy a one note player and it’s a misfit, that’s griezmann right now, jozy back in the day. jozy was a perfect fit at AZ. he was not a target striker. but people look at the goals, look at the body type, “target striker.” spent years getting past that. sucked.

        you’re implying perfect information when i think it’s like select trials or ODP with better players and bigger checkbooks. they’re still guessing. they’re probably better guessers.

        anyhow, answer to your question is there are some teams with awesome academies that churn out great players they don’t keep and the senior team is mediocre or sucks. there are teams with mediocre academies but big checkbooks who field awesome senior teams. some teams combine the two, but conflating academy training with senior coaching is not the same.

    • Quaker: Here are the IV cliff notes: I want my defenders to play defense first. Big clubs waste money and don’t scout good. Also Horvath is the greatest GK in the history of GK. (May not be in there but he puts it in almost every post and I got bored by the end of this one).

      • If things stay as they are Horvath ain’t going to Qatar if they make it.

        It will be Steffen and Turner and Guzan will be #3. He has prior WC Backup keeper experience and I think the manager values that.

        Horvath must be the winner of the hard luck keeper with the worst timing and the worst agent award.

        The good news is being a keeper he’ll have time to make a case for 2026.

      • when we keep the GA down, we generally win, when not, it gets dicey. QED. and historically we have had plenty of players like yedlin or FJ whose combination of attacking danger and defensive issues led to them being redeployed forward. conversely we have pushed some “arriola” types backward before. when we figure out offense goes over here in this pile, and defense over there in that pile….it will be much better.

        re big clubs, i am not saying they can’t scout. i am saying they have imperfect information or sometimes their own weird in house ideas how to play. the argument is treat them as sort of darwinian player funnels that understand players perfectly and discovery only perfect successes, then treat any big club player as inherently better regardless how he looks for the NT. history has shown that to be more complicated. reyna and pulisic usually play like big club studs. brooks, others, less so. since the heuristic is not consistently correct, you’re better off just watching how they play for the Nats, not confusing the situation by bringing scouting hopes back in.

        that’s what i was really responding to was this “invisible hand” type crap where world soccer always fairly sorts players and thus we should assume big club people are better and being better trained. and a lot of y’all neglect some of these big clubs just sign a half dozen prospects, toss them in with the pile, and see what happens. some prosper. some get loaned right back out. the very variation suggests they are not perfect but instead have the money to conduct an internal competition of sorts, for which there must be a winner and a loser. perhaps steffen can explain to you how sometimes the big club signee doesn’t seize the keeper job, and it’s not his fault. like the invisible hand the transfer market only looks smart after the fact. before the fact sometimes they are surprised, overpay, sign someone useless.

    • The Flaw in Imperative voice’s argument is the simple fact that players improve and even big clubs change philosophies but don’t wholesale change rosters. Some teams are better at it than others for whatever reason. For players, look at how much a player like De Brunye improved between Chelsea and his time at Man City, Look at Kante, who blossomed in a defend and counter style but has also been a world beater in a dominate possession system. When Tuchel comes in for Chelsea he instantly makes them a much better defensive team. He was not stuck in a system because his players were one dimensional. Why does Suarez play well for Barca and then play equally well for Athletico? Do they play the same way?

      Dest is a perfectly adequate defender. The real issue is the US best outside backs are actually best as wingbacks. We also have enough quality CB that in theory could play in a back 3, but that means 1) you probably aren’t using Brooks as much 2) you are going to have to drop a midfielder you rate (there are only two spots for McKinnie Adams and Musah) and 3) we don’t really have an effective line stretching center Forward or a good forward at hold/link up play as our best forward is more of a find small spaces poacher (Pepi). As a result Gregg plays his 4-3-3 that leaves the US more vulnerable to the backs getting caught up field.

      • IV Cliffnotes on Player Development: All players are finished developing by 19, they only can become more physically fit. Therefore it doesn’t what club you play for you will not get better just stronger or faster.

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