COLUMBUS, Ohio. A spectator of a men’s soccer game in the United States could have some pretty fun just watching Serginho Dest go about his business to fight back.
The simple actions of 20-year-old Dest on the football field – running, trapping the ball, fiddling with it at his feet, directing it to his teammates – oozes style. He has a bottomless set of gimmicks. He has puppet control over the ball – and sometimes he has crazy ideas of what to do with it.
Despite all his skills, the question about Desta that was asked by the coaches of both the national team and his club, Barcelona, was whether he could collect all these gifts and tools and consistently express them as effective performances if he could avoid mental mistakes. and stayed focused on the pitch if he could change the game himself.
Over the course of one supremely spectacular night, Dest did just that, scoring a brilliant goal, coolly building a winner and generally delighting the audience as he helped lead the United States to a 2-1 comeback over Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifier. Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio.
After a second-half substitution, Dest made one last charming gesture, leaving the field on the far sideline and walking leisurely around the perimeter of the playing court, waving his arms to anger the crowd as the game continued behind him. … When he got to the sideline near the bench, he gave five to all the fans he could and a few guards with a big smile on his face.
The fans pampered him with thunderous applause all the way.
“I love the fans,” said Dest, who grew up in Holland. “I tried to draw their attention to other players. We feel like the fans are covering for us, so I hope they stay that way. “
The hospitable setting and the 20,165-man sellout seemed to cheer up the entire United States team, which were hoping to bounce back from a senseless 1-0 defeat in Panama on Sunday.
The team came to view Columbus as a kind of unofficial national home because of the reliably large and supportive people it has here and because it has been the site of positive results: out of 10 previous World Cup qualifiers in Columbus since 2000, the US has won seven matches on Wednesday.
The fans – their voices were amplified in the stadium by the cozy seating and partial roof – were still working on the theatrical slow USA! screamed, counted every game until the starting whistle as Costa Rica pulled out into a stunning lead.
Jumping to the US goal in the first minute, Costa Rican defender Keisher Fuller jumped up and met a cross with his right foot. Although the contact was not clean, the ball flew randomly out of the grass, through the small crowd and into the net past US goalkeeper Zach Steffen, who was frozen in line with a creeping threat from Costa Rican striker Jonathan Moya at goal. box. Steffen immediately ran to the sideline to argue that Moya was offside, but it turned out that Dest, who had been pulled over the endline to the side of the game, kept the Costa Rican strikers out of the way.
“I think my initial thought was this,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter. “We have to answer. It was early enough in the game that I thought if we stayed calm and stick to the game plan, everything would be okay. “
Dest perfectly redeemed himself in the 25th minute. Having received the ball on the right flank, he dribbled the ball threateningly towards the penalty area, caressing the ball with his right foot, before quickly cutting it off to the left and kicking it with a weaker foot into the upper left corner of the goal.
“It’s a really important goal and it was a really good goal, so it’s an amazing feeling,” Dest said, adding that he thought his boots were untied when he was scoring. “I was so happy.”
The flight of the ball into the net caused an uproar in the home crowd and sent Dest to the sideline, where he was surrounded by teammates and coaches.
“There is almost no limit for him,” Berhalter said of Dest. “He can be as good as he wants. You saw his attacking play today. This is unrealistic. “
Like the goal itself, Berhalter might have been happy with his buildup, a sweeping 13-assist with nine American players who started in midfield, returned to Steffen at goal, dashed down the left side of the field and ended on the right. Before Dest struck, the US didn’t score 428 minutes in the first half.
A few days ago, Berhalter joked with reporters that they were probably tired of hearing him use the word “verticality,” a reference to the tactical concept of a direct approach, which he repeatedly cited in a series of press conferences.
Imagine how often players have heard this. The US has at times looked lackluster in attacks over the past two months, but the concept seemed to resonate on Wednesday night. Desta’s goal highlighted one of America’s best attacking halves in recent memory, one that exemplified all the offensive principles that Berhalter had preached publicly and behind closed doors for weeks: persistent and purposeful off-ball moves, quick exchanges, general feeling urgency of pushing towards and behind the opponent’s back line.
A good goal was scored in the 66th minute. The Costa Rican defender’s misbehavior caused the ball to roll at Desta’s feet, who picked it up, looked at those around him and sent a perfectly balanced pass down the path of Timothy Weah, who tied him to goal.
Costa Rica’s goalkeeper Leonel Moreira later declared the game his own goal, but Weah marked it as his own, aiming to hug the fans’ pockets in the corner.
Dest joined him there, receiving pats on the head from fans, reveling in a performance in which he used all his teasing skills with destructive power.