DOHA, Qatar – The United States prepares to face the Netherlands on Saturday in their World Cup Round of 16 match, and while it is an occasion it will be special for all involved and defender. Sergino d’Estewill carry additional importance.
Dest was born in the Dutch town of Almere, about 12 miles east of Amsterdam. He came through the famous Ajax academy and turned pro there. But thanks to his American father, Kenneth, Dest played international soccer with the United States, so when the two teams line up on Saturday, he’ll see plenty of familiar faces.
“I know almost everyone there,” Dest said through a team spokesperson after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Iran that secured the US entry into the playoffs. “Yeah, of course it would be fun. I was born there, I speak the language, I know all these guys. They want to go on, but we have the same dream. It’s going to be a fight again.”
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Dest featured prominently against Iran. The Group B standings prior to the final round of matches meant the United States had to win to qualify, while Iran only asked for a draw. As such, Iran was content to sit back, absorb pressure, and attempt counterattacks. And in roughly the first 35 minutes of Tuesday’s game, the USA were hitting their collective heads against Team Milley’s defense. The business approach was fine, but then the USA seemed content to play it safe. It would have taken something a little special to break Iran.
This is where Dest came in. The USA right-back started to take the lead, causing chaos in the 17th minute with a low cross from that keeper. Alireza Beiranvand He could only push wide, and then with a dynamic run that ended up blocking his shot. But the path to the goal was marked, and with the help of Dest the breakthrough finally took place in the 38th minute. Weston McKinneyThe player’s lofted pass to Dest headed across the goal, allowing it to pass Christian Pulisic For knife and close range finish.
The United States had to push harder defensively in the second half, enduring tense moments, but a team effort allowed them to clinch the match and a massive victory that clinched second place in Group B.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Dest said. “The way we played all three games, we really fought for each other. We have brothers. Iran was pressing us a little bit in the second half, but we got the job done. We are happy. We can relax now.”
That Dest was involved with the target comes as no surprise. His offensive instincts have always been his greatest asset. He has shown a knack for making big appearances in important matches, such as his goal against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier.
But with the World Cup approaching, there were problems. Dest has scored just 373 minutes for Milan in all competitions since being loaned out from Barcelona in September. The move came as Barcelona struggled to balance their books. And as for his playing time at Milan, that didn’t help his competition for the position, David CalabriaHe is the captain of Milan. Even without worrying about the accumulated rust, Dest’s defense wasn’t always stable, and his position was also a concern. During his days with Barcelona, then-manager Ronald Koeman confirmed that Dest would often stop playing in matches.
“Needs to be more aggressive, to be more focused,” Koeman said in February of 2021after a confrontation in the Champions League with Paris Saint-Germain Kylian Mbappe. “He had a lot of periods in the game where he wasn’t 100% focused.”
This was not a problem in Qatar. Dest has been impressive on both sides of the ball at this World Cup, including instances when he was isolated against Iran’s forwards. He was noticed by the man with the best seat in the house to judge defenders: the American goalie Matt Turner.
“He was unbelievable, flowing freely up and down the field,” Turner said. “I think what I notice most about Sergino is that he always comes out defensively in the big moments, and he tracks down runners in the penalty area really well.”
The same can be said of the entire USA defense, which conceded just one goal and none from open play in its three group stage matches. For American coach Greg Berhalter, it was a team effort, even though the defensive line stood out. The fullbacks Dest and Anthony Robinson The director was given what he wanted.
“The fullbacks are doing a good job,” Berhalter said. “We want them to be a little bit more offensive today. And we got help from [Dest]. So it’s a good thing. We need our full-backs to be aggressive, and it was good that they showed that today.”
The Dutch have a talented team, finishing top of Group A with seven points, although there is a sense that Louis van Gaal’s side are yet to reach the top. The same can be said for an American team that has only scored two goals. But for now, Dest and his teammates can look forward to taking on former Ajax team mates such as Frankie de Young And the Joren Timber.
“I can’t wait to play the next game because it will be so much fun, playing against the country where I was born,” he said. “I have complete confidence.”
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