Sergiño Dest lost his composure in an unnecessary dispute with the referee, receiving a pair of yellow cards for dissent in a 30-second span that jeopardized the United States’ place in next year’s Copa América.
Trinidad won 2-1 on Monday night in Port of Spain, overcoming a deficit by scoring twice after Dest’s 39th-minute sending off left the United States a man down. The Americans held on to win the series by total goals 4-2 and earn spots in the 16-nation Copa América and the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.
US captain Tim Ream revealed there were “choice words” for Dest at halftime.
“There’s not a lot of things I can say here publicly that we’ve said privately,” Ream said. “It’s a complete lack of respect for the guys playing, for the guys on the bench, a feeling of disrespect for the game itself, for the referees.”
Coming off a 3-0 win last week in Austin, Texas, Antonee Robinson scored in the 25th minute off Dest’s cross to give the 11th-ranked United States a four-goal lead in the quarterfinal series. Nations League final.
Reon Moore tied the score in the 43rd with a long ball from Alvin Jones, beating defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and beating Turner to the near post. Jones put the 99th-ranked Soca Warriors ahead in the 57th with a 30-yard free kick that came off the hands of goalkeeper Matt Turner, who attempted to stop the deflected shot. Jones scored a similar long-range goal in October 2017 against Tim Howard in a 2-1 win in Couva, about 20 miles south, which ended the Americans’ streak of seven World Cup appearances.
The United States was in control until Dest, upset by the officials, ruled that he did not prevent a ball from going out near midfield, he kicked the ball to the other end. That earned Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez his first yellow card, and the 23-year-old defender then pointed to where no foul was called moments earlier when Andre Rampersad pushed him.
“It’s inexcusable,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It was surreal.”
Dest argued with Lopez while Gio Reyna and Ream tried to keep him away, Reyna trying to cover Dest’s mouth. López raised two fingers and showed a second yellow and a red. Ream and Turner yelled at Dest as he walked off the field.
“It’s concerning because that’s not what we stand for, that’s not who we are as a group,” Berhalter said. “We pride ourselves on staying mentally disciplined, fighting any type of condition. Whether it’s good or bad decisions, we’re supposed to move forward and respond appropriately, and that obviously wasn’t the right response from Sergiño. He apologized to the group. He said it won’t happen again. “As a team, the players, the staff, we have to hold him accountable.”
Dest will be suspended for the Nations League semi-final in March. He missed this year’s Nations League final after receiving a red card and a three-game suspension for a fight in the semifinal against Mexico.
“We were very firm with our words after the game,” Berhalter said. “He put several guys in danger, made several guys do a lot of extra work in this weather.”
U.S. team spokesman Michael Kammarman said CONCACAF rules prohibit players who receive red cards from speaking to the media after games. CONCACAF Secretary General Philippe Moggio referred a request for comment to spokesman Álvaro Urrutia, who cited the regulations. Neither Moggio nor Urrutia explained why the rule blocking access to the media was in force.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, staff, fans and the entire nation for my behavior. It was unacceptable, selfish and immature. I let my team down!” Dest wrote on Instagram. “It’s something I have to learn from and it won’t happen again!”
Berhalter tried to look ahead.
“Serge has done a great job maturing and growing over the years he has been with the group and for him this has to be a learning experience,” the coach said. “We give people second chances. We work with people. We help them overcome cases like this.”
“I just don’t want this to become a witch hunt,” Berhalter added. “He is a young player, he is a fantastic part of this team. He’s going to learn. He’s going to grow up. He made a silly mistake. He knows. He apologized to the team and we moved on.”
The United States finished the year with 11 wins, four losses and three ties, going 4-2 at the start of Berhalter’s second tenure as coach. The match at a virtually empty Hasely Crawford Stadium turned 34 and a day later Paul Caligiuri’s goal led the United States to a 1-0 victory and its first World Cup in 40 years.
Robinson scored with a diving header off a Dest cross, beat Shannon Gomez and redirected the ball past goalkeeper Denzil Smith from 10 yards out for his fourth international goal and second in two games. Robinson tucked the ball under his jersey during the celebration to indicate that his fiancée is expecting a child in April.
The feeling was similar to that in Costa Rica in March 2022, when the United States qualified for the World Cup despite a 2-0 loss.
“It’s obviously bittersweet,” Robinson said.
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