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.