Big, meaningful victories have become scarce for the US national team over the last couple years, but they definitely scored one when Ajax right back revelation Sergino Dest announced that he would continue his international soccer in red, white and blue.
The 18-year-old son of a Dutch mother and a Surinamese-American father, who earned his first two senior caps in October, was eligible to make a one-time switch to the Netherlands. Though Dest has come up through the youth international ranks in a US shirt, Oranje boss Ronald Koeman made a late bid to turn his head on behalf of the country of his birth. He took a spell to think it all over, setting off sweat glands at Soccer House and across our soccer bubble.
In the end, Dest opted to stick with the USMNT instead of teaming up with the Dutch, who have reached three World Cup finals and routinely boast one of the most talented squads in the world. Now that the sighs of relief have passed, we can all take stock of what his decision means for the Nats, both now and in the years to come.
The obvious factor relates to what Dest adds to the team on the field. The youngster greatly improves and deepens Gregg Berhalter's right back pool, if not also providing the manager with a starting-caliber choice for the left side.
Dest is more comfortable on his natural right side, but possesses enough adaptable quality to make it work on the opposite flank. Whether working starboard or port, the youngster display some wizardly moves rushing in to attack. He already has four assists in just 16 games for Ajax and can also threaten with long-range shots. He largely defends well, especially when facing up to a ball-carrier, but can certainly gain more savvy to eliminate mistakes.
On the right-back depth chart, Dest is in a dogfight with the likes of Reggie Cannon, Nick Lima and the presumed top pick, fit-again Newcastle United man DeAndre Yedlin. However, it can be well-argued that he instantly becomes the best option on the left.
Long story short, a lot of skill, tactical nous and big-play potential has just signed on to represent the US for the next dozen or so years. Dest is good now and, with Ajax coaching as the wind in his sails, he has the chance to be great. Needless to say, the USMNT will take all the great they can get. But Dest's decision should also renew some confidence in the program's ability to win the dual-international fights that are going to come up from time to time.
The losses of former US youth aces Efrain Alvarez (at least for now) and Jonathan Gonzalez had many stateside fans concerned, or even angry, over the recruiting methods employed by the federation. While claiming Dest won't have the emotional resonance of winning a tug-of-war with arch-rivals Mexico, there's no denying that winning one with a world power like the Dutch is going to restore a considerable amount of faith in U.S. Soccer.
Even so, the biggest part of the win for Berhalter and boss Earnie Stewart has nothing to do with saving face with the fans or regaining cachet among dual-internationals. For them, it's all about how securing Dest enhances the roster. The wide back slots have become increasingly vital to success in the modern game, and instances of Champions League-quality players featuring there for the USMNT have been few and far between. Heck, the last one who did — 2014 World Cup cog Fabian Johnson — isn't even a natural defender.
Now the US national team has a genuine teen wonder in the wingback fold. Dest seems likely to grow impressively as a player and provide many shining moments for years to come. As nice as it is to avoid another FIFA switch defeat, it's even better to add a fresh baller to the squad. Much more than anything else, that's what should be sparking smiles from sea to shining sea today.