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

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.”