Midday musings

Good day on the youth front, Dest's dilemma, & a look to USA-Mexico in Jersey

The United States national team will meet a familiar foe on Friday night and with the youth national teams also in full force, it's a very busy week. ASN's Brian Sciarett writes about it all ahead of the big showdown in New Jersey. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 06, 2019
12:00 PM
THE SEPTEMBER international window is an exciting time for American soccer at multiple levels. With the U-17, U-20, U-23, and full national team, this 10-day period is giving nearly 90 players a chance to represent the Stars and Stripes.

So far, it’s off to a good start. Here are some musings.

U-17s and U-20s win

On Thursday the United States U-17 team downed Mexico 2-1 behind goals from Gio Reyna and Ricardo Pepi. This is a nice result against a Mexico team which beat the Americans in the final of CONCACAF in May. It was also the first game in the Four Nations Tournament in the Netherlands. The U.S. will next face the hosts on Saturday at 9:00am EST. 

The U.S. U-20’s were initially meant to play Croatia but instead played a regional team from Zagreb and won 2-1. The goals were scored by Cole Bassett and Cameron Harper. It is disappointing that the team did not get to face Croatia but all games are useful at this very early stage of the cycle.

Dest and his international future

One of the biggest stories to drop so far in this international window was Sergino Dest who spoke with the media on Wednesday. The Dutch-American admitted that he has not closed the door on playing for the Netherlands and has also admitted he could not state whether or not he’d play in an official cap-tying match for the U.S. team next month.

He also softened the blow and said that Berhalter has made him feel valued up to this point.

The next day Berhalter announced that Dest was going to start the big game against Mexico on Friday. This is a massive opportunity for Dest and one that should be another firm indication that the youngster is part of the team’s future plans.

U.S. Soccer has gone all-in on Dest and has essentially done everything possible to include Dest at every relevant level. He has played at the U-17 World Cup, the U-20 World Cup, and now with the full national team in the first camp after he made his professional debut. The start against Mexico is just the latest step. If Dest plays for Holland, it is safe to say U.S. Soccer has done all that it could.

It’s only natural that he considers playing for the Netherlands. He was born and raised there. He developed there and now plays for its most storied club. He should feel divided on the issue.

But despite the angst from U.S. Soccer fans on this issue, I would guess that Dest plays for the United States. He knows the high level of talent of the next generation of American players. He knows the federation values him. He also knows the opportunity to possibly play for the United States when it cohosts the tournament in 2026 would be a unique experience and one that would bring a ton of exposure (at the ripe age of just 25).

The Netherlands wants to meet with him and perhaps they will make a compelling case. But can they offer more than a spot on a youth national team? The United States has played this well and laid out a path full of opportunity.

A look ahead to U.S. vs. Mexico

No trophy will be handed out tonight and the stakes are low, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that whenever a team is trying to rebuild and integrate young players at the rate the U.S. team is currently doing, all games are important.

There are so many questions the U.S. team faces in this game. Here is a brief list of what I am particularly looking out for.

How will Dest hold up?

We know he’s going to start. But he will be under far more defensive pressure than what he has faced thus far in the Eredivisie or even the Champions League qualifying stages where Ajax is usually on the front foot. We know he is going to look to get forward but how will his defense handle Mexico’s pacey attack? Reggie Cannon did a good job in the Gold Cup final but this will be a big test for Dest.

Will Brooks be up to the task?

On his best days, Brooks is a special defender who can be a true presence in the box. But he sometimes struggles and injuries have kept him away from the United States on too many occasions in recent years. Can he start to become the anchor of the backline? This is particularly important if the U.S. team starts a young pair of fullbacks.

Who will provide defensive bite in midfield?

Tyler Adams isn’t here. Michael Bradley isn’t here. Wil Trapp can hit some nice passes but defense hasn’t been his strength. To stop Mexico, this is going to be critical for the United States.

This opens the door for Alfredo Morales. It’s hard to understate what a big opportunity this is for him because it comes at a time when the U.S. really needs depth in this position. Assuming Tyler Adams moves back to central midfield once he’s healthy, who is his backup in the No. 6?

Can the U.S. finish its chances?

The United States lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup final because it couldn’t finish its chances. There were plenty of times it had the ball in the box but came away empty.

Josh Sargent was disappointed when he didn’t make the Gold Cup team but here is his opportunity if he gets on the field to translate his disappointment into effectiveness on the field – and prove he should have been on the field and that it was wrong to leave him off the Gold Cup team.

Just as importantly will be how the U.S. team gets the ball to Sargent, or whoever is playing forward. A lot will come down to Pulisic’s positioning – either on the wing or in the middle.

But there are a lot of questions on the attack? Jordan Morris struggled in the Gold Cup final. Can he put that behind him after playing well for Seattle in recent weeks? Finally, Tyler Boyd is also another attacking option and is still very new to the U.S. program. Can he continue to show further growth on the team and be a valuable playmaker out wide?

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