Kyle BonaguraESPN Editor3 minute read
The United States men’s national soccer team qualified for the 2024 Copa America on Monday night despite a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in which American right back Sergiño Dest was sent off for which coach Gregg Berhalter called a “stupid mistake.”
Before the match – which also served as the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal – trailing 3-0 on aggregate after a victory on Thursday, the United States took full control in the 25th minute thanks to a goal from Antonee Robinson.
From there, everything seemed clear, with Trinidad and Tobago needing to beat the United States by five goals to overturn the result. But 14 minutes later, Dest received one of the most inexplicable red cards in the history of the American national team.
Apparently upset by a decision by officials moments earlier, Dest first threw the ball into the stands. Much to the dismay of his teammates around him, notably Giovanni Reyna, Dest continued to have words with the referee, earning a red card via a second yellow.
“It’s concerning because that’s not what we want to represent,” Berhalter said. “That’s not who we are as a group. We pride ourselves on staying mentally disciplined, fighting against any type of conditions, whether it’s good or bad decisions. We’re supposed to keep going and react appropriately, and that was obviously not the correct response from Sergino.”
The United States then played the match with 10 players, winning 4-2 on aggregate despite losing the second leg. Dest apologized to his teammates and fans on Instagram after the game.
After receiving a red card earlier this year against Mexico in the Nations League semifinals, Dest becomes the first American player since 1990 to receive two red cards in the same calendar year. He will not be available to play in the semi-finals of the Nations League in March.
“He apologized to the group. He said it wouldn’t happen again,” Berhalter said. “As a team, players, staff, we have to hold him accountable because it’s inexcusable. It really is. And we were very firm in our words after the match.
“He put a number of guys in danger, made several guys do a lot of extra work in that time, and that’s inexcusable.”
As Dest left the field, he was tackled by captain Tim Ream and had to be pushed off the field by goalkeeper Matt Turner as he returned to the American bench and into the locker room.
In a post-match television interview, Robinson called Dest’s antics an “unprofessional moment.”
Berhalter was not willing to speculate on whether Dest might receive additional punishment for his actions.
“He’s a young player. He’s a fantastic part of this team,” Berhalter said. “He’s going to learn. He’s going to grow. He made a stupid mistake. He knows it. He apologized to the team and we’re moving forward.”
The Copa America will bring together the 10 CONMEBOL teams as well as six Concacaf teams and will be hosted by the United States. The tournament will begin on June 20 in Atlanta and conclude on July 14 in Miami.