Sergino Dest says some Ajax teammates 'didn't like' his U.S. choice
CHAMPIONS GATE, Florida -- Sergino Dest said some of his Ajax teammates "didn't like" his decision to represent the U.S. over the Netherlands.
The dual national declared his intentions on Oct. 28, capping off what had become an intense tug-of-war between the Netherlands -- the country of his birth -- and the U.S., where his father is from and whom he had represented at youth level.
Predictably, Dest's choice drew mixed reactions. He said some of his Ajax teammates "didn't like" his decision, while others congratulated him for following his heart. The reaction from fans drew a similar range of emotions.
"On this side, the American side, a lot of people were happy. They gave me compliments," Dest told reporters ahead of Friday's CONCACAF Nations League match against Canada (live at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
"But on the other side they were mad. They said I'm raised over there, and why didn't I play for the Netherlands because I'm raised over there, I'm born over there. In soccer it's going different, you know. A lot of things happened."
Nonetheless, the 19-year-old admitted to a sense of relief at finally having made his decision.
"It felt great because everybody was pulling at me, everybody wanted to know an answer, you know? I just took my time and I think I made the right decision," he said.
Dest was asked about the various influences on his decision, from U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart -- himself a Dutch-American -- to his club and international teammates and on down to his parents. He insisted he's his own man, and that it was the accumulation of time spent representing the U.S. at youth level that drove his thinking.
"I just made my own decision. I don't think they had a lot of influence," Dest said about his parents. "It's my life, and if it's not working out well, I'm the one who is...in trouble. That's the reason why I want to make my own decision, and I'm old enough to make them."
Dest admitted he still feels an affinity for both the U.S. and Netherlands, but in some ways, it's almost unfair for a player to choose one country over another. However, he realizes that is nature of FIFA's rules regarding player eligibility at international level.
"It's a hard decision of course. You're for both [countries]," he said. "You have to make decisions in life. I made one, and I'm glad that I made one. Now I have to make sure I made a good one and show what I've got."
Dest has seen his playing time decrease in recent weeks at Ajax, with manager Erik ten Hag preferring Noussair Mazraoui at right-back. But the U.S. international remains confident especially with him likely to feature on Friday against Canada.
"It's gone super fast," he said about the last few months. "If I'm not playing, it's not like I'm going backwards because you can also do a lot of things when you're not playing, and when the rest of the world doesn't see it. I'm still working and at the moment I've got a chance again. I will show myself."
Dest said he hadn't bothered to watch the U.S. team's 2-0 loss to Canada last month, though he's expecting a different outcome this time around.
"That's not going to happen the next game," he said about the Canada defeat. "We're not going to lose, 100 percent."
The U.S. has its hands full in the upcoming days, needing to defeat both Canada and Cuba over the next week while also making up a three-goal differential on Canada in order to reach the Nations League semifinals.