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The United States men’s national soccer team was well on its way to defeating Trinidad and Tobago in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Nations League on Monday night when Sergiño Dest collapsed over a minor matter, putting his disbelieving teammates in a sticky situation.
With a one-goal lead in Monday’s second leg and a four-goal lead overall, the visiting Americans just needed to sort things out in the final 51 minutes to earn a spot in the Final Four of the tournament in March and the Copa América, the historic South , to secure American competition, next summer.
Despite a 2-1 defeat at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, they achieved their goal by winning the two-game series 4-2 on aggregate goals – “but not like that and way we would have liked,” said coach Gregg Berhalter.
A 3-0 win on Thursday in Austin provided a comfortable cushion. But Dest’s stunning lack of composure led to a red card, left his team a man behind and changed the tenor of a quiet game. He will miss the Nations League semifinals March 21 in Arlington, Texas.
Berhalter said Dest’s behavior was “concerning.” … We pride ourselves on remaining mentally disciplined.”
Dest apologized to the team, Berhalter said.
“We have to hold him accountable because this is inexcusable,” the coach added. “We were very decisive in our words after the game. He put a number of people in danger and caused some people to have to do a lot of extra work [warm] Weather.”
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The 23-year-old right-back, who started at the World Cup in Qatar, was apparently upset about the contact in attack. A moment later, when he failed to keep the ball in midfield, he shot the ball into the stands.
Referee Walter López gave away a yellow card. Dest complained. Fearing another map, teammates Gio Reyna, Tim Ream and Yunus Musah tried to calm Dest down. He remained persistent. López showed yellow for the second time.
Ream, the captain, was angry and pointed at Dest. Goalkeeper Matt Turner hit him and pushed him to get Dest off the field quicker. Then Dest said something to Turner.
On Instagram, Dest called his actions “selfish and immature.” … It won’t happen again.”
Left-back Antonee Robinson called it a “moment of unprofessionalism.” … People can make mistakes, and it’s just a big mistake.”
In the locker room at halftime, players had “choice words” for Dest, Ream said. “It’s a complete lack of respect for the boys who are playing, for the boys who are on the bench,” the captain added. “It’s a lack of respect for the game itself, for the referees.”
Dest also received a red card in the semifinals of the 2022/23 Nations League against Mexico last summer, meaning he was not available for the final.
“I don’t want this to become a witch hunt,” Berhalter said. “He is a young player. He is a fantastic part of this team. He will learn. He will grow. He made a stupid mistake. He knows it.”
Four minutes after Dest’s breakout, Reon Moore scored the equalizer. Eleven minutes into the second half, Alvin Jones’ booming free kick gave the Soca Warriors the lead.
The hosts, ranked 99th according to FIFA, needed three more goals to win the series; A tie on aggregate would not have been enough to force extra time, as the 11th-place visitors went into the first tiebreak (away goals) through Robinson’s header in the 25th minute.
The game marked the U.S. team’s first visit to the Caribbean country since another nightmarish outing: In October 2017, a shock 2-1 loss to a last-place opponent on the final day of qualifying ended a streak of seven consecutive World Cups. Participations.
After that disastrous result, the Americans won the next four meetings by a score of 22-0, including Thursday’s victory in Texas. However, it wasn’t easy; The Soca Warriors kept the game scoreless late into the night.
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The Americans could have prevented the outcome of the two-legged tie in the first four minutes, but Denzil Smith made an excellent save. However, in the 25th minute, Dest hit a cross into the middle of the penalty area. Robinson fired a diving header from 10 yards into the right corner, scoring his second goal in four days.
“Everything was going smoothly, and then there was an unfortunate moment that put us at a big disadvantage,” Berhalter said.
After Dest’s red card, Moore held off Cameron Carter-Vickers and fired an angled shot over Turner. At the start of the second half, Jones, who also scored in the upset in 2017, took a free kick. Turner got his hands on the high, ankle-length shot but couldn’t stop it.
The U.S. team was reeling from the turn of events, and without the erratic shooting and Turner’s two fine saves, the pressure would have been even greater.
Instead, the visitors escaped, no thanks to Dest.
To regain his teammates’ good graces, Dest must “not only show that he is apologizing, but also show through his actions that we can trust that he is someone we can rely on, on and off the field.” said Robinson.
Berhalter echoed those sentiments.
“We give people a second chance,” he said. “We work with people. We help them overcome such cases. We do the same with Sergiño. … We need to have good conversations with them to make sure we get them on the right path.”