SHORT HILLS, N.J. — Sergino Dest has represented the United States in a pair of youth World Cups, most recently the U-20 World Cup in Poland this summer.
They were positive experiences for the Ajax fullback.
“It’s nice. It’s like a big opportunity. I’m also proud to play for them,” he said Wednesday. “They gave me a lot of chances when I was younger so I respect that.”
Dest might get the chance to play for the senior national team for the first time Friday when the U.S. senior men’s national meets rival Mexico in an international friendly at MetLife Stadium.
But the 18-year-old is undecided on his international future beyond this September camp.
Born in the Netherlands to a Surinamese-American father, Kenneth Dest, and a Dutch mother, Dest is weighing interest from his home country as well.
“Yeah, they said something to me,” Dest said of the Royal Dutch Football Association, which governs the national team. “It was not like the first team yet. It was with the Under-23s. They want to have a meeting with me. I keep the options open.”
As for his immediate future, Dest is looking forward to a rivalry match Friday night against El Tri. He got his first taste in the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship when the U.S. defeated Mexico, 2-0, in the final.
“As soon as I heard it’s the rival of the US, I always want to play against them and beat them,” Dest said. “I hope I can play.”
That Dest was sure of. There’s much more murkiness around Concacaf Nations League matches against Cuba and Canada next month, which would cap-tie Dest.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I can’t make a decision.”
Dest called his first USMNT call-up “a surprise.”
“Two weeks before this camp he reached out to me,” Dest said of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter. “He called me and he told me I want to have you [in] for this September camp. I’d like you to be in this U.S. national team. I was a little bit surprised.”
When Dest was last on the international stage, he rebounded from a costly mistake against eventual World Cup champion Ukraine in the opening match of the group stage to have a strong tournament. He helped lead the U.S. to the quarterfinals.
Not long after, he was in preseason camp with Ajax.
“That went very well so my focus was like ‘I want to stay there.’ And I don’t want to go back to the second team,” Dest said. “So I played really well and they gave me more chances and I succeeded with chances.”
Dest has started the last two matches for Ajax at right back, while also proving he could compete on the left side. He also competed for the Dutch giant in UEFA Champions League qualifying.
“Everyone has their own progress and the speed in which they continue to progress is unpredictable,” Berhalter told reporters after training Monday. “For him, for example, he got an opportunity, he seized his opportunity and now he’s a starter for Ajax, a semifinalist in the Champions League. That’s an unbelievable story.
“Sergino’s in a good moment right now and we definitely want to capitalize on that.”
Dest has lived in the Netherlands his entire life. He said the first time he came to the United States was when he was 14, visiting New York with his father and uncle John. They’ll both be in attendance at MetLife Stadium Friday night hoping to see Dest put on the USMNT kit and make his senior team debut.
“I’m happy for this opportunity, happy that I’m here right now,” Dest said. “I don’t know for the future. You guys will see what happens at that time.”