Dest’s red fog poses a dilemma for Berhalter

When Gio Reyna, of all players, is the voice of reason urging his teammate to calm down, swallow his frustration, and act less petulantly, you know there’s a serious problem.

The immediate impact of Sergiño Dest’s two yellow cards for dissent during Monday’s Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal second leg against Trinidad and Tobago was that the shift in momentum transformed what was shaping up to be a comfortable night in a 2-1 loss.

The score was no big deal as the USMNT held a 3-0 advantage from last Thursday’s first leg in Austin. More important is the question of whether coach Gregg Berhalter can still trust the right back after his second petulant sending off in five months.

Angry at being denied what he felt was a free kick for a foul moments earlier, Dest launched the ball into the sky with the thrust of a SpaceX rocket, for which he was booked, then muttered to the referee, Walter López, winning a second yellow card. and he blows her a kiss. This led to the rare sight of the American players attacking not the referee who handed out the red card but the teammate who received it. Defender Tim Ream protested against Dest and goalkeeper Matt Turner pushed him off the field.

“Baby behavior,” former American stalwart DaMarcus Beasley said in the studio. He is now an expert on TNT, which is both a television channel and a description of Dest’s powder keg temperament. Was this temporary insanity caused by the incessant noise of fans’ cowbells in the stands at Hasely Crawford Stadium? Or is this who Dest is? A volcano that erupts with his team winning 4-0 on aggregate?

Dest was also sent off in June for pushing an opponent in the 85th minute after reacting angrily to some hits on the touchline during another advantageous scenario, a 3-0 Victory of the League of Nations over Mexico. Then, like on Monday, he gave an assist.

Berhalter took out Reyna and brought in Dest’s substitute, Joe Scallybut T&T quickly tied it up and won the game with a great goal in the 57th minute. In the end, the visitors were lucky to lose by only one goal margin.

An unfortunate situation should limit the damage.

One year after the dispute with queen that went nuclear and generated radioactive fallout that persisted for months, Berhalter once again finds it necessary to assert his authority over an undisciplined but talented young player. This time it won’t be so complicated and the other players have made their opinion on Dest’s behavior very clear. “A moment of unprofessionalism,” left back Antonee Robinson said on TNT.

Berhalter told reporters that Dest “apologized to the group. He said it won’t happen again. “As a team, players, staff, we must hold him accountable because it is unforgivable, it really is, and we were very firm with our words after the game.”

The manager added that he didn’t want a “witch hunt… he’s a fantastic part of this team. He’s going to learn, he’s going to grow. He made a stupid mistake and he knows it. He apologized to the team and we will move on.”

At least Dest’s mea culpa via instagram It was as sincere as his tantrum. He apologized to “the entire nation” and added: “Selfish and immature, I let my team down! It’s something I have to learn from and it won’t happen again!”

Dest’s sense of attack sets him apart from Berhalter’s other options at right back. But as word spreads among future opponents that Dest is a fuse waiting to be lit, the head coach is sure to keep an even closer eye on the 20-year-old Scally. progress in the Bundesliga in the coming months.

Although he has been so-so for the United States of late, with a poor performance at left-back against Germany in October, Dest’s splendid conduct is difficult to fathom. He is 23 years old and has 32 international caps, so he has no experience. He is on loan from Barcelona to PSV Eindhoven in his native Netherlands and plays regularly for a Champions League team that has won all 12 of its league games. He has rarely been booked and has only received one yellow card for PSV this season.

The double debate continues

Bittersweet, rain and sun, fire and ice, Balogun and Pepi. It was one or the other until last week: Folarin Balogun was replaced by Ricardo Pepi in each of his previous six international matches. But in the first leg against Trinidad and Tobago the forwards played together after Pepi came on in the 66th minute, and both started in attack on Monday.

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With the game markedly marked by Dest’s departure, it was difficult to draw conclusions about whether the pair could forge a profitable partnership in the future. Balogun wandered in search of space slightly behind Pepi, who was a more conventional shooter but did not hit a shot in his 65 minutes. More tests are required.

However, it seems clear that Reyna will be an integral part of Berhalter’s tactics if he decides to do without a defensive midfielder to give the United States an attack strong enough to hurt high-caliber opponents in the tournament. The playmaker, a fire emoji made flesh, scored in the first leg of the quarter-final and impressed again in the second with some deft passing. And at least for now he is in shape. Last Thursday’s game was Reyna’s first full game for club or country since March 2022, after 51 consecutive appearances in which he was a substitute or substitute.

Home comforts

This was the USMNT’s first return to Trinidad since 2017, when, well, You know. Let’s say it also ended 2-1 for the locals and there was also a long range attack of Alvin Jones, And leave things like that. The next four meetings, all in the United States, brought four American victories by a combined margin of 22-0. Last week in Austin, the United States had 75% of the possession and outshot Trinidad and Tobago 26 to one.

The clear home advantage in Concacaf competitions is nothing new, but is it any wonder the United States is such a homebody? This was the United States’ 18th game of 2023 and only its second away game. (The other was a 7-1 victory over Grenada, an island with a population of 125,000, in March.) Of course, players often face hostile and unfamiliar environments at their clubs. But the lack of exposure to the tactical and practical challenges posed by away games surely affects the team’s resilience.

Not that it will matter much in the coming years, with no qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup, as the United States is automatically included as co-host, while next year’s Copa América will also be held in the United States, as is every Gold Cup. And, in fact, the 2028 Olympic Games.

How to face the Cup

The 4-2 aggregate victory over Trinidad and Tobago means the United States has qualified for next summer’s Cup. Tuesday, by the way, marks exactly twelve months since the United States opened its World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Wales. Will the United States enter the Cup as a more formidable team than in Qatar?

Balogun and an in-form Pepi are certainly improvements on the forwards the United States brought to Qatar and a mature and healthy Reyna promises to add an extra creative dimension. Tyler Adams’ long-term injury is a concern, but most of Berhalter’s key contributors (Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah and Robinson) are still performing solidly and logging minutes for their clubs.

Still, things can change quickly. Just a month ago, Turner returned to England after having made a excellent rescue in the 4-0 victory over Ghana. Two games later he was knocked out by his club, Nottingham Forest, and really should have stopped Jones’ free kick on Monday.

Although Cameron Carter-Vickers started both legs, Berhalter still appears to be trialling centre-backs and, understandably, continues to pick the venerable Ream, who will be 38 when the 2026 World Cup begins. Malik Tillman and Kevin Paredes will get more opportunities , but failed to take the opportunity to impress against Trinidad and Tobago in the absence through injury of Pulisic and Weah, who were clearly missed. On this basis, Robinson, who scored in both games and was the driving force behind numerous attacks, is indispensable.

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