USMNT’s Sergino Dest explains why playing with Lionel Messi and Barcelona is ideal to maximize his potential

Sergino Dest arrives at the U.S. men’s national team camp at the ideal moment. Brimming with confidence following his first goals in a Barcelona shirt, the youngster has been one of the key beneficiaries of Ronald Koeman’s tactical tweak, given license to charge forward from his wing-back role.

It was little over a month ago that Dest was being torn apart by Kylian Mbappe in the Champions League round of 16 first leg, a grueling examination that might have stalled his development in his first season since moving to the Camp Nou from Ajax. Of course, it was not just the U.S. international who was outclassed by Paris Saint-Germain and that defeat prompted Koeman to drop Frenkie de Jong deeper into a third center-back role.

That has freed the Barcelona full-backs to push upfield and do what they do best, attack. At just 20 years of age Dest would acknowledge that he needs support in behind him but now that he has that he is thriving.

“I feel like I’ve developed a lot in Barcelona,” Dest said ahead of the USMNT’s friendly against Jamaica in Austria on Thursday. “This system we’re playing right now, that’s something that fits me really well. I’m playing with the best of the game. Every training [session] you look at [Lionel Messi] and see what he does, it’s unbelievable. I try to take a couple of things from him, of course it’s really hard.

“I feel like I’m learning from all the players. It’s really good for my development. I’m at the right place to get my full potential.

“This system fits the whole team as well, for me it’s a little bit better because I have someone behind me and I like to take some risks into my game. If I take risks in the game I’m at my best, taking actions and attacking.

“As a team, the system fits really well because we’re winning a lot of games, scoring a lot of goals.”

Asked what the Barcelona coach had told him to change in his new role, Dest added: “In the new system, he said to me, ‘if you can, just go.’ That’s something that fits me really well, my attacking abilities are my strengths. I feel like I can take more risks in the game. Hopefully we can just continue like this, I think I can grow more into this position and be more helpful for the team and also work on my stats, assists and goals are also important.”

The goals may have taken longer to arrive than Dest might have liked but they were an impressive pair of strikes with which to open his account, a powerful drive across goal following Messi’s assist and a poacher’s finish off a Jordi Alba cross in the second half as Barcelona romped to a 6-1 win at Real Sociedad.

He said of his brace: “I was really, really happy to score two goals in the game. I needed it, it was about to come because I had the crossbar against Paris Saint-Germain, I hit the post against Sevilla.

“So it finally came and I was really happy because it was also important for the team, you know, the second goal and the third goal. As a team, we put down a really good result and we have to continue like this.”

Dest may see his position change again when he joins up with USMNT. Gregg Berhalter is not short of options at right-back with Reggie Cannon and new Roma signing Bryan Reynolds also in the squad.

Berhalter has deployed Dest at left-back on several occasions, including in the friendly against Panama in the last round of international fixtures. “I like both positions,” said the Barcelona defender. “Wherever the team needs me I’m going to play over there. I’ve played a lot of left-back for the national team, I like to switch a little bit. For me I don’t really prefer anything, I like both of the positions.

“I am a little bit of a different player on the left side than the right side, I like both sides.

He added: “With the U.S., I’ve had five caps [and] I’m really looking forward to playing again with them. We have games against Jamaica and Northern Ireland, hopefully, I can just continue like this, growing and score my first goal for the U.S.”

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