USMNT’s Dest talks becoming a member of Barcelona, his connection to the U.S., and its World Cup ambitions


Sergino Dest flew into Barcelona on a Tuesday and at last signed for the Catalan membership that Thursday. Between touchdown at El Prat airport and penning a five-year deal at Camp Nou, Bayern Munich had been on the telephone making an attempt to resurrect a deal they’d been engaged on since January. The German giants had dallied, although, and the appointment of Ronald Koeman at Barca together with the sale of Nelson Semedo allowed the La Liga aspect to leap the queue. Dest has at all times most well-liked Barca to Bayern, but when the German and European champions hadn’t haggled on the worth with Ajax, he would have fortunately moved to Munich.

All in all, it is a switch saga that may have excited followers of the United States males’s nationwide crew. Gregg Berhalter’s aspect is blessed with a technology of younger, gifted gamers plying their commerce at Europe’s greatest golf equipment. Dest is a type of gamers, and the very fact he was coveted by two of Europe’s heavyweights reveals how extremely considered he’s within the recreation.

Together with Dest, there’s Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea‘s Christian Pulisic and JuventusWeston McKennie, to call three extra. That checklist might go on. There’s expectation constructing forward of the 2022 World Cup, though Dest factors out that 2026, when the U.S. co-hosts soccer’s greatest competitors with Canada and Mexico, is a extra real looking goal for achievement.

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When Dest, who comes throughout as assured however humble, says the USMNT might even win the World Cup, he means it. The Dutch-born defender turned 20 on Nov. 3, however he has astounded workers at Barca along with his maturity. Maybe that was at all times apparent, given his level-headed mindset, which he used to make the troublesome resolution to characterize the U.S. over the Netherlands whereas nonetheless a teen.

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Sergino Dest explains why he selected Barcelona and the way taking part in with the “finest gamers on the earth” motivates him.

After only one season with Ajax’s senior aspect, Dest already appears fully at dwelling at Barca. He made his debut at left-back in opposition to Sevilla FC after which displaced Sergi Roberto at right-back for the Clasico in opposition to Actual Madrid simply 23 days after becoming a member of the membership. Barca misplaced the sport, however Dest’s repute was improved, with him wildly considered among the best gamers on the pitch. That is a results of laborious work … and never taking a trip in years.

As he prepares for his first U.S. camp in a 12 months attributable to a calendar disrupted by the coronavirus, with video games in opposition to Wales and Panama forward, he sat down with ESPN to speak about life with Barcelona and the USMNT.

Editor’s Word: This interview has been edited for readability and size.

ESPN: How has your first month as a Barcelona participant been?

Dest: It has been superb, my dream got here true! I play for Barcelona proper now. I had an amazing debut, I feel, in opposition to Sevilla, I assumed I performed properly in that recreation. Aside from that, we misplaced the Clasico, however for me, it is simply beginning, hopefully I can [achieve] great issues with this lovely membership and develop myself as finest as I can.

ESPN: Koeman confirmed numerous confidence in you when he put you within the beginning XI for the Clasico.

Dest: That is an excellent factor for me, I’m snug. In fact it’s important to discover your house within the crew and play — that is why at first I need to play just a little easy, get my spot, get my chemistry with the crew after which slowly develop increasingly more into the crew. Koeman gave me confidence, and now it is as much as me. I’ve to play good matches and develop myself. He gave me the probabilities, however you already know it is as much as me if I make them work or not.

ESPN: You have simply turned 20, however have managed to regulate to the calls for at Barcelona a lot faster than extra skilled gamers. What is the secret?

Dest: I’m at all times going out with my very own high quality and making an attempt to play with that. Generally, once I take a look at [my teammates] on the pitch, I am like, “Wow, a few years in the past I watched you guys on TV.” Now I play with the perfect participant on the earth (Lionel Messi). That is superb!

For me, personally, I at all times attempt to work on my expertise on the ball, so I am assured when I’ve the ball. In case you’re assured, it is simpler to play with large gamers than when you’re not assured, so I feel that is the massive key for me. Left- or right-back, for me it does not matter. I play the place the coach wants me. If I’ve to play left wing, I play left wing. It does not matter — I simply need to play, however to be sincere I feel I’m extra snug on the suitable aspect.

ESPN: And you have adjusted to the town shortly as properly.

Dest: I get used to it proper now. All the things went so fast. Two or three days after I signed, we performed in opposition to Sevilla. There has not been numerous relaxation. I’m now in my very own place. All the things is extra relaxed. I can focus extra on soccer. I settled actually shortly.

Barcelona’s a very nice metropolis. I prefer it right here, I really feel at dwelling. There’s not been a second once I needed to return [to Amsterdam]. I’m good right here, I need to develop myself, practice actually laborious on daily basis after which loosen up, take my relaxation once I have to. Aside from that, I’m simply in my home simply chilling and it is only a good metropolis. Additionally, within the States, with the USMNT, I really feel at dwelling over there.

ESPN: Has it helped to have Dutch audio system like Koeman, his assistant Alfred Schreuder and Frenkie de Jong across the membership? And USMNT teammate Konrad de la Fuente, who’s with Barcelona B?

Dest: That is higher for me, after all, it is one thing good. It is simpler to speak with them if I do not perceive [things]. I am additionally taking Spanish classes, that is essential for me, and in addition Catalan. I ask them questions. If I do not perceive it in Spanish, I ask them: What does this imply? What does that imply? They assist me, and I am studying every little thing shortly and getting used to every little thing in Barcelona.

ESPN: You have spoken about Messi loads because you signed. How good is he in coaching?

Dest: Yeah, he’s actually, actually good. He has some unbelievable moments, only a pleasure to look at.

ESPN: Together with your self, there are numerous younger gamers getting probabilities at Barca. Ansu Fati and Pedri are each taking part in often. Are we seeing the subsequent nice technology rising on the membership?

Dest: It is very nice to be a part of that technology. I feel it is also good to play with a few younger gamers in order that they’ll modify to the extent. That means, [Barca] have already got gamers for the longer term. I feel it is actually sensible that Barca does that proper now and provides us the prospect to enhance faster.

ESPN: How is La Liga? You have been thrown in on the deep finish with video games in opposition to Sevilla and Actual Madrid.

Dest: I do know! They had been a few powerful video games. La Liga’s a troublesome league. It is an amazing league to play in for me personally. As a result of we play numerous good matches, I’ve to be centered each recreation; it is good for me, it is good to focus on each recreation. You need to be centered and concentrated, and that is good for me, I feel; I’m rising into a person. To play all these laborious video games, I feel I am going to develop a lot faster.

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Sergino Dest is optimistic concerning the USMNT’s potential with so many gamers breaking into large golf equipment.

ESPN: What has Koeman requested of you as a participant?

Dest: Not a lot, to be sincere. I attempt to play my recreation. Very first thing is to defend — you already know I’m a defender, so proper now I’m making an attempt to defend loads. If attainable, I’m going ahead. Earlier than, at Ajax, perhaps I went just a little an excessive amount of ahead and forgot my [defensive duties], however now I’m not forgetting. So I’m in search of my moments to go ahead. I really feel like I get slowly extra assured within the crew, and I really feel like in a few weeks I might be completely myself giving every little thing I’ve. Clearly, I give every little thing I’ve proper now, however then I really feel extra snug within the crew and I feel it is higher for me.

ESPN: You are considered one of numerous USMNT gamers at Europe’s greatest golf equipment now. One other is Weston McKennie. You performed in opposition to his Juventus aspect lately.

Dest: Yeah! I did not converse to him [before] the sport, however he instructed me once I signed for Barcelona: “I’ll see you within the Champions League.” It is good to play in opposition to him. We’re good pals within the nationwide crew.

ESPN: Then there’s Reyna, Pulisic …

Dest: I have never met Gio Reyna, so I do not know him as an individual, however I performed with Pulisic. He is a very good participant; they’re each actually good gamers. I hope they hold working and we are able to attain one thing good within the coming years. Pulisic is a very nice participant, he is quick, [and] actually good at dribbling. I noticed within the first couple of [U.S.] coaching periods earlier than I made my debut in opposition to Mexico, he was so good, you already know, within the coaching. I had some restoration periods, so I used to be simply wanting on the coaching, however he was virtually unstoppable. After which within the video games you see it, he performs very well. Hopefully we are able to get an excellent connection on the sphere and may play with one another very well.

ESPN: May he play for any membership on the earth?

Dest: Yeah, yeah.

ESPN: Then there are the children coming via. You clearly know Konrad at Barca, Alex Mendez at Ajax …

Dest: These guys are rising, they’re coming. They’re near reaching the senior crew, and Konrad [has just had his first senior call-up]. There’s additionally Chris Richards at Bayern Munich. Hopefully everybody will hold working laborious. I feel we may have a very good crew sooner or later. For me, it is simply deal with myself and if I may help the others, then I’m there for them. However I’ve to deal with myself to develop myself much more; hopefully, they’ll do the identical and I feel we are able to obtain one thing nice.

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Juventus’ McKennie appears ahead to speaking Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi with Barcelona’s Sergino Dest.

ESPN: What’s coach Gregg Berhalter wish to work with?

Dest: The communication with him is de facto essential. I’ve good contact with him — I like him very a lot, as a coach and an individual. And he helps me loads, man. After virtually each recreation we converse and he asks me: What are your ideas about this recreation? What do you assume you possibly can enhance? We simply converse. I feel that is good to have somebody who’s actually busy with you with that type of stuff. I feel he is the suitable particular person with that. I feel he does it with numerous gamers, and I am actually proud of him as a coach.

ESPN: Have been you conscious of the media explosion that might comply with, particularly within the U.S., while you signed for Barca and have become the primary USMNT participant to play for the membership in a aggressive recreation?

Dest: Truly, no. After I signed for Barca, I used to be not seeking to see if I could possibly be the primary American to play for Barcelona, no. I took the choice for me. I assumed this was good for my improvement, I’ve the prospect to play some minutes.

However once I had to decide on between the Netherlands and the U.S. I had that behind my thoughts: OK, [I have] two choices, however what are the benefits in Holland and benefits within the U.S.? Within the U.S., [there is] extra for me, and I performed my complete youth within the U.S., so it was additionally just a little little bit of loyalty. I made a good selection, and hopefully I can get large within the U.S.

Soccer just isn’t the most important sport within the U.S., so hopefully we as a technology can let it develop and get extra followers from the U.S. that may assist us in soccer, making soccer just a little larger within the U.S.

ESPN: Inform us about your connection to the U.S.

Dest: My dad is from New York, Brooklyn. My first time in U.S. was in 2014. I went to New York, to Queens — that is the place my uncle lives. That was when the 2014 World Cup was on, when Germany gained it. However aside from that point, I hadn’t been to America loads earlier than. I’ve household in New York, household in different cities.

ESPN: Do you discover an added starvation across the crew after lacking out on the final World Cup?

Dest: Just a little, to be sincere. I see that everyone needs to play in a World Cup, particularly with the U.S. nationwide crew. The U.S. gamers need to play within the World Cup and attain one thing large for the U.S. We did not actually come that far but, we [will] try to win it. Everyone is hungry for that. I feel the subsequent technology goes to be one thing new and we’ll show it to the remainder of the world.

ESPN: Is 2022 too quickly to win it?

Dest: I imply the ball is spherical, so we at all times have probabilities, however I feel we may have extra probabilities in 2026 perhaps. We have now numerous younger gamers within the crew — I feel we should always go and expertise [the 2022 World Cup]. I simply hope that we attain far, however that is one thing we can’t inform but.

ESPN: With the united statesco-hosting in 2026, will probably be additional particular.

Dest: I feel all people is additional motivated as a result of it is within the U.S. We have now to do one thing actually good. In fact we’re talking about it. Everyone needs to play in a World Cup, however it’s one thing particular to play in your personal nation.

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USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter breaks down the upcoming camp with principally younger, uncooked prospects.

ESPN: This week is your first time with the USMNT for a 12 months. Final November was your final call-up. It has been a very long time.

Dest: Wow, it was! That is a very long time, man, virtually a 12 months. It is good to see the gamers once more. With the subsequent World Cup in 2022, hopefully the COVID-19 state of affairs doesn’t interrupt that. I do not prefer it for a lot of causes, like we can’t play with [fans]. The principles are getting stricter proper now in some nations, additionally in Barcelona, so hopefully every little thing might be all proper sooner or later as a result of in any other case it isn’t good to play; you can not play with out [fans].

ESPN: Has that been the draw back to your first month at Barcelona? Taking part in the Clasico in an empty stadium will need to have been unusual.

Dest: It is actually unusual. You’re feeling it, the stress, however you do not actually really feel it. And I feel the stress is one thing that makes soccer; it makes the game, the followers, every little thing round it. It isn’t boring since you need to play, which is at all times good — it is simply means higher with the followers and the assist from exterior. My [Barcelona] teammates instructed me it is a lot stress [with fans at the Clasico] however I’ve to see it with my very own eyes.

ESPN: There’s extra stress on you now with the nationwide crew as a Barca participant, too.

Dest: I’m ready for that. You understand, simply play the sport and don’t fret concerning the exterior. I’m simply within the recreation. When I’m retired, I’m out of the sport, then I can fear concerning the issues exterior, however proper now I’m within the recreation, so I will not let it have an effect on me.



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