THE HAGUE – Ajax defender Sergiño Dest has decided to remain with the United States national team rather than switch to the Netherlands.
The 18-year-old outside back, who has a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother, played for the U.S. in the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups. He made his senior national team debut for the Americans last month when he played in friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, but because he had not played a competitive match had the ability under FIFA's rules to change his affiliation to the Dutch national team.
In recent weeks, both Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman and U.S. counterpart Gregg Berhalter had spoken to Dest in an attempt to persuade him.
"Of course, it was a tough decision for me when the Dutch men's national team showed their interest, but I have built up a very good feeling with Team USA over the last couple of years and I strongly believe in the plans and potential of U.S. Soccer," Dest said Monday.
He made his Ajax debut at the beginning of this season and has been a regular starter in the Eredivisie and the Champions League.
Dest is a typical Ajax defender. Skillful and quick, he tries to push forward and deliver crosses.
He told Ajax teammates of his decision in the locker room after training on Monday. He also called Koeman to break the news.
"Of course, he was disappointed, but he respected my choice," Dest told Ajax TV.
Berhalter flew to Amsterdam last week to watch Ajax play Chelsea in the Champions League. The only goal of the match came after U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic dribbled past Dest and passed for Michy Batshuayi to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory.
Berhalter and USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart spoke had lunch with Dest and the player's father the next day. Stewart's history is remarkably similar to Dest's — both have fathers who were U.S. servicemen and both were brought up in the Netherlands.
"As a dual national myself, I understand the choices that these young players face," Stewart said. "Our job is to provide a clear pathway and maintain honest and open communication, and then ultimately it comes down to a personal decision."
Berhalter is rebuilding the U.S. national team after its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Dest could make his competitive debut on Nov. 15 when the U.S. team plays Canada at Orlando, Florida, in the CONCACAF Nations League. He is a natural right back but played on the left for the Americans in the September matches and could be on a back line that includes Newcastle's DeAndre Yedlin on the right.
"We are thrilled to have Sergino commit to our program," Berhalter said. "He is an exceptional young player with a bright future."