In the end, Sergino Dest’s choice to symbolize the U.S. came down to two things: trust and loyalty. The amazing Ajax right-back shut himself away in the sound as he weighed whether to play with for the U.S., whom he’d represented through the various youth levels, or the Netherlands, the country of his birth. Amid the networking frenzy that was social, Dest knew he’d made the ideal call.” A lot of people only want you as soon as it is going well,” Dest told ESPN while sitting at the centre of Ajax’s De Toekomst training foundation. “The USMNT helped me if it did not go well, and I am thankful for that. They helped me through hard times, and when they had not given me a chance, maybe I would not be here now with Ajax. Maybe I would never have attained this level.”However, “this amount” is only the start. The 19-year-old wants to make history with this promising generation of American players, such as Christian Pulisic, and reach a degree of collective greatness not before seen in U.S. soccer.

Dest is from the Snapchat creation that sees email addresses. He uses his mother’s account if he absolutely has to send anything. He resides with his parents — his mother is his dad Surinamese-American — and there aren’t any symptoms of his fame changing him. “I keep focused. I’m not a man who speaks bulls– to other men,” Dest explained. “I don’t look at others. I just focus on improving.”Himself hauled back playing on the roads in Almere, a little, nature-filled town 23 miles while weighing his conclusion. He remembered a piece of advice he has followed since he was a child.”There was this guy I played street football with, and one time he said,’You never need to become worried because in the event that you get worried, you are likely to do bizarre things in soccer.’ And that’s what I always consider,” he explained. “Even now, if someone’s trying to push me or run in behind me, I just consider it and have it at the back of my head”Dest’s lack of stress is evident in his drama. He brings a youthful exuberance but anchoring him is a combination of self-confidence, which directs the remarkable to try over the rudimentary, and self-awareness, which helps him learn from his mistakes. These”mistakes” will be the memories he provides when speaking about his 22 career looks for Ajax. Playing in the Champions League and scoring his first goals for Ajax were great, obviously, but if looking back at the year, he remembers how he gave a penalty against Willem II –“I felt as though it had been the only option. I was running in a high speed, but I’ll be smarter in these situations in the future” — and the way against Heracles, he lost the ball on the halfway line, and Cyriel Dessers ran off to score. (Luckily, it did not matter: The mistake came from the 90th minute, together with Ajax 4-0 up.)

Those who laughed at him when he told them that he will maintain the 2% of prospects that make it to Ajax’s first team are also remembered by Dest. “Now I am here, now everyone who laughed at me will say, ‘Yeah, you are great bro… how are you’ Everyone wants to be my friend again,” he explained. “However, I know who had been there in the hard times and that I keep them safe.”After their back turned to the young Dest 1 time came.”Every time that I got to the [last round of choice ] for the Netherlands youth team, I did not make it,” he said. “I was like’s–, s–, s–,’ but my father reminded me I have an American passport.” Given that America was seen by Dest for the very first time in 2014, that meant a measure into the unknown that was relative. Word of Dest reached U.S. Soccer via former U.S. Under-20 coach and Ajax participant Dave van den Bergh, and the U.S. soon capped Dest at Under-17 level. He remembers how he’d limited English when he turned up to training camp but the team helped him and invited him on and off the field. Dest played his first minutes in October 2016 from Costa Rica but came off despondent, convinced that he’d ruined his only chance to progress together with the U.S. But the coaches encouraged him and stuck by him. “That’s why I am so thankful to the U.S.,” he said. “They helped me in hard times.”

Dest went on to represent the U.S. in the Under-17 World Cup and played a key role in last May’s Under-20 World Cup. It was his introduction to acting in front of large crowds, and he thinks it helped him to bury any nerves ahead of his Ajax introduction in the Johan Cruyff Shield triumph against PSV in front of 51,837 in Ajax’s scene. The first two of Dest’s three U.S. senior caps came in September 2019 against Mexico and Uruguay, but they had been considered “friendlies,” which meant Dest was still eligible for Netherlands choice had he wanted to change. In October, he took a break from soccer to make his long-term decision, despite the flurry of counter-rumours and rumours, he trusted his instincts. “My heart told me that the U.S. was the best option for me,” he said. “I had been raised in the Netherlands. I really like it. However, in life, you have to make difficult choices. I felt the U.S. was the ideal alternative. I had played in their youth teams, and that I really feel in the home. “It is not like the U.S. is bad at football, either. They play World Cups — and against a lot of the Very Same teams as the Netherlands.”

Dest confirmed his decision Oct. 28 and obtained a few happy speeches on Snapchat from U.S. teammates excited to congratulate him on his choice. He recalls he later bumped into Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman later Ajax were knocked out of the Champions League into Valencia. Koeman smiled at Dest and wished him well. The defender took it by an Ajax legend of the past as a nod of approval to someone trying to emulate. Ajax teach their academy players to play from the back, to attack space and trust the system and the ethos instilled in the club’s relationship to the time of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s and’80s. Last year saw Ajax hit the Champions League semifinal then lose their two brightest abilities, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, to European powerhouses Juventus and Barcelona, respectively. As players leave, the club attempts to replace them from inside their system, but this really is their depth of talent that only about 2% transition to the first team from the academy. After Dest’s summer holiday was cut short by Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag — he had a split involving the Under-20 World Cup and reporting for first-team training — he grasped the opportunity. “I needed to stay focused — I know I have potential — but I needed that focus to achieve what I have. I thought in myself,” Dest explained. “When I received my chance with the first team, I understood it was all or nothing. “Life in Ajax goes with confidence placed in players than at other top teams. That would explain why nobody bats an eye in Dest’s career trajectory, having seen him sign his first professional contract in December 2018, create his first-team debut in August 2019, be at the middle of a tug-of-war between two countries and play in the Champions League at only 19 years old. They also encourage players to take possession of conclusions; if Dest desired to leave their midseason training camp at Qatar due to their political tensions between Iran and the U.S., Ten Hag and Edwin Van der Sar admired his desire. “I don’t think it matters how old you are: I think it boils right down to just how many games you have played,” Dest said. Dest profited from the wisdom of Winston Bogarde, the Netherlands centre-back who is the assistant manager of the Ajax reserve team. Now with the group, it is Michael Reiziger, a 72-cap Netherlands defender who had been part of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League-winning team. Together, the pair have worked to enhance his defensive placement. “All of the faults in my career have made me who I am,” Dest explained. “You have to make mistakes to be successful, and that is the reason why I’m not afraid to do anything or try anything, like I make a mistake, I will learn from it. If I’m scared, I shall never have the ability to improve or aim for something better.” The two Reiziger and Bogarde informed Dest, “We do not need to help you a great deal with attacking,” and a quick glance across YouTube finds the Dest highlight reels glittering with darts down the ideal wing, ambitious passes and intentions to take on the man in front rather than picking the milder pass him around. Dest joined Ajax as a winger but was changed to right-back; his versatility is heaven-sent for the U.S. and their long-term ambitions.

The day after we spoke, Dest was crowned U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year for 2019. If he remains injury-free, he could comfortably play in three World Cups for the U.S., though their failure to qualify for the 2018 edition in Russia means that he is not looking any farther ahead than reserving a place at Qatar 2022. Dest is not concerned. He desires this generation of players using Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent (amongst others) to aim big. “I want us to write history. I would like to do something together with the U.S. team that nobody’s ever done or achieved,” he said.”But nobody knows where I’m gonna stand in ten decades. It’s down. Perhaps it’s up. You do not know, but it’s nice to follow the path.”