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Sergiño Dest scrambles to avoid giving away USMNT strategy ahead of World Cup opener


DOHA, Qatar — Sergiño Dest is normally a calm, cool and collected character, so it was a surprising sight to see the AC Milan fullback so flustered when fielding a question about the U.S. men’s national team’s approach to World Cup opening-opponent Wales.

When asked how the Wales’ style of play would effect his ability to attack from his usual attacking fullback approach, Dest pauses and ponders a response, but when he turned to Weston McKennie and saw the Juventus midfielder break out laughing, things went off the rails a bit.

Dest eventually rolled into a standard “We’re focused on how we play” response, but as he continues and references how the USMNT is always working on the high-press, he appears to catch himself getting ready to give away some tactical insight he knows he shouldn’t.

That’s when Dest pauses his answer and turns to McKennie, who has a look on his face that suggests he was also a bit concerned about Dest giving too much away. After a brief consultation with a U.S. Soccer media representative, Dest gets back to answering and points to Wales’ style leaving the Welsh susceptible to attacks in behind on the flanks (which are the exact kind of areas a player like Dest likes to exploit.)

So what could have had Dest so concerned? The most likely reasons are A) he isn’t starting and didn’t want to give away the fact he isn’t starting, or B) the USMNT is going to trot out some surprising formational/tactical approach specifically to attack Welsh vulnerabilities.

Dest not starting wouldn’t be all that surprising given his recent lack of playing time at AC Milan, and his limited practice time since arriving in Qatar. Gregg Berhalter has three other right back options in Joe Scally, Shaq Moore and DeAndre Yedlin.

If Dest’s secrecy was geared toward hiding a surprise, could the USMNT be set to deploy a 3-5-2, with Dest as a wingback and Tim Ream, Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman as central defenders? That approach would push Antonee Robinson and Dest (or Joe Scally) higher up the field as wingbacks while giving the USMNT defense some stability with three central defenders.

Another wild card, albeit a highly unlikely one, could be Tim Weah, who recently played as a right back for Lille. Weah has never played right back for the USMNT, and is a candidate to start on the right wing, so deploying him as a fullback wouldn’t make much sense, especially with three other natural right backs on the roster.

Could Dest have just been nervous at his first World Cup press conference? Given his normally-aloof nature, that explanation feels like the least likely of them all. We will find out on Tuesday.

Here is the full video of the incident:

What do you think Dest was trying to hide? Think he was just nervous, or did his reaction coupled with McKennie’s leave you believing there is some surprising tactical/formational wrinkle coming on Monday?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. mckennie came across as a bright and smooth kid (perhaps has a broadcasting future) who gave a perfect non-answer to his wales question, which i will note was left in USSF’s posting of the presser. said they’d watched film and been preparing but didn’t give a hint what they’d seen and were being trained to do. neither conveys they are taking it lightly, nor motivates the other team, nor tells wales anything. the laughter, well, the USSF press guy seemed like not just the dude pointing out questions but also the unlisted 3rd speaker on the panel, and mckennie seemed to find his involvement funny — he’s looking to his left where the official is, when he laughs. dest, however, is neither a politician nor smooth in the language, poor choice. he’s struggling somewhat through the answers. the USSF official intervened as he was starting to say a lot, how do they in fact play, how he might be used. the audio was rough on this SBI version, i watched a youtube to try and get broader context and clearer audo, and in their post they had edited out what dest said, which taken at face value says something.

    there is always the possibility they were acting and this was some sort of a disinformation game. it’s possible, we’ll see. it came across to me like face value and like dest on the panel was a mistake, as he seemed somewhat stumbling in his second language and less controlled. even the response to dutch media critique didn’t sound polished and bland, had an edge. i thought the puppet master stage right kind of messed up. pick someone practiced who handles it easy and gives nothing.
    unless we’re being sneaky.

    • From a quick count on YouTube at least 15 of the 26 have been involved in press conferences over the last few days. Seems like everyone is getting a turn. Also seems to show maybe it means nothing in terms of starting as both Turner and Johnson have been on stage. This seems much ado about nothing. Wes and the media relations guy Neil Buethe are both chuckling.

  2. I doubt he would be up there if he wasn’t going to start, and same w McKennie. I figure he misunderstood the question and then Mckennie told him to say something crazy he didn’t want to lol. Not sure I’d read too much into it beyond that.

    • I agree with you on he wouldnt be up there if he wasn’t starting angle, so I think it had to do with no wanting to give away tactics. Ive been saying for awhile now that Greg was going to switch it up for the WC, and I think this may be evidence of that, coupled with Timo Weah struggling to answer the same type of tactical question posed to him a few days ago

      • the way this whole thing has been handled from fitness camp rosters to now is very media managed, any talk about roster competition had to be started by the media who didn’t bother much, little team news other than who is jogging on the side. GB and co. gave us nothing. i am sure the team have been told to say zilch. when put in front of cameras and told to answer questions honestly that gets harder. mckennie is slick. dest came across like this is his second language. weah is probably more used to doing pressers in french.

        to me if you’re trying to hide tactics you either stick out there your brightest, slickest couple dudes, instructed to give out platitudes, or you continue a media blackout and have mr. puppermaster hand out some chosen morsels and fluff pieces. not sure it was bright to stick out there ESL guys/ people used to talking to press in languages other than english. they might be the reputation players the press wants to hear, but if we’re being clever, you want it so well oiled they never get wind. presser full of smooth bs platitudes and no hint we’re up to something. this is some mix of either he talked more than was desired — “we told you don’t talk tactics” (USSF official jumps in) — or he was literally starting to hand out the playbook. even if you shut him up wales’ antennae went up.

    • You comment comes off really xenophobic like Preston Zimmerman. I dated a girl from Holland. He did understand the question thats why he stopped, because he would expose the tactics. Everyone learns English in Holland his english and comphrehinson of English is not an issue.

    • Yes, he is quite fluent in English. However, being fluent and being dominant in a language are two completely different things. But, yes, he is pretty fluent and his comprehension skills are very good. I have seen several interviews, and he has done well. I think he probably understood the question but might have had a little difficulty answering it, because he might not have wanted to reveal some tactics. Not a big deal, though.

    • think about it like you’re taking spanish classes and they stick you out there for a key pregame press conference in spanish. that’s two plates to keep spinning — stringing spanish sentences like you’re in class, and obeying your media guy’s instructions how to operate and what to avoid. assuming this wasn’t something sneaky, this goes better if it’s either someone who barely speaks english — and can only say “we play good football” — or fluent and smooth. came across to me as just fluent enough to spill meaningful beans and just struggling enough to probably be distracted by stringing the words together.

    • side point, i assume people forgot because he made his choice and we liked it, but once upon a time dest at a camp presser a few years ago, right before a friendly, told the press he wasn’t sure if he’d pick us or the dutch. i didn’t like it and i think under other coaches you would have been sent packing for saying such things. they would have demanded loyalty. not sure if it’s brains, second language, or he’s not “politic” but this wouldn’t be the first time he’s been off message.


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