USMNT loses to Trinidad and Tobago but still improves overall

The United States men’s national soccer team was on the verge of eliminating Trinidad and Tobago in the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals Monday night when Sergiño Dest collapsed on a minor issue and put his disbelieving teammates in a sticky situation.

With a one-goal lead in Monday’s second leg and a four-goal advantage, the visiting Americans only needed to see things unfold in the final 51 minutes to secure a place in the final four of the tournament in March and in the Copa América, the historic competition of the South. American competition, next summer.

Despite losing 2-1 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, they achieved their goal by winning the two-match series on aggregate, 4-2 – “but not in the way we would have liked,” coach Gregg Berhalter said.

A 3-0 victory Thursday in Austin had provided a comfortable cushion. But Dest’s stunning lack of composure resulted in a red card, left his team down and changed the tenor of a quiet match. He will miss the Nations League semifinal on March 21 in Arlington, Texas.

Berhalter said Dest’s behavior was “concerning.” … We pride ourselves on staying mentally disciplined.

Dest apologized to the team, Berhalter said.

“We have to hold him responsible because it is inexcusable,” added the coach. “We were very firm in our comments after the match. He put a number of guys in danger, made a number of guys do a lot of extra work in that (hot) weather.

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The 23-year-old right-back, who started the World Cup in Qatar, was apparently upset by contact on the attacking side. A moment later, when he was unable to keep the ball in the confines near midfield, he kicked the ball into the stands.

Referee Walter López issued a yellow card. Dest complained. Fearing another card, teammates Gio Reyna, Tim Ream and Yunus Musah tried to calm Dest down. He persisted. López posted a second yellow.

Ream, the captain, was fuming and waving at Dest. Goalkeeper Matt Turner lunged at him and, in an effort to get Dest off the field quicker, pushed him. Dest then said something to Turner.

On Instagram, Dest called his actions “selfish and immature.” … This will not happen again.

Left back Antonee Robinson called it “an unprofessional moment.” … People can make mistakes, and it’s just a big mistake.

In the locker room at halftime, players had “choice words” for Dest, Ream said. “It’s a total lack of respect for the guys who play, for the guys who are on the bench,” added the captain. “It’s a lack of respect for the game itself, for the referees.”

Dest also received a red card in last summer’s 2022-23 Nations League semi-final against Mexico, leaving him unavailable for the final.

“I don’t want this to turn into a witch hunt,” Berhalter said. “He’s a young player. He is a fantastic part of this team. He will learn. He will grow up. He made a stupid mistake. He knows it.

Four minutes after Dest’s explosion, Reon Moore scored the equalizer. Eleven minutes into the second half, Alvin Jones’ thunderous free kick gave the Soca Warriors the lead.

The hosts, ranked 99th by FIFA, needed three more goals to win the series; leveling on aggregate would not have been enough to force extra time, as the 11th-ranked visitors led the first tiebreaker, away goals, through Robinson’s header in the 25th minute.

It was the U.S. team’s first visit to the Caribbean country since another nightmare match: in October 2017, a surprise 2-1 loss to a last-place opponent on the final day of qualifying ended to a streak of seven consecutive World Cup appearances.

Following the disastrous result, the Americans won the next four meetings by a margin of 22-0, including Thursday’s victory in Texas. But it hasn’t been easy; the Soca Warriors kept the match scoreless until late.

Midfielder Weston McKennie missed the second game with a knee ailment, joining compatriots Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah and Tyler Adams on the injured list.

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The Americans could have ended this back-and-forth match in the first four minutes, but Denzil Smith made two excellent saves. In the 25th minute, however, Dest sent a cross into the heart of the penalty area. Robinson slotted a diving header from 10 yards into the right corner for his second goal in four days.

“Everything was going well, then an unfortunate moment put us at a very disadvantage,” Berhalter said.

After Dest’s red card, Moore held off Cameron Carter-Vickers and fired an angled shot at Turner. Early in the second half, Jones, who also scored in the 2017 upset, slotted home a free kick. Turner got a hand on the high, connecting shot but couldn’t stop it.

The American team was shaken by the turn of events, and without Turner’s wayward shooting and two quality saves, the pressure would have increased.

Instead, the visitors escaped, no thanks to Dest.

To get back in the good graces of his teammates, Dest must “show not only by apologizing, but by showing through his actions that we can trust him to be someone we can count on, on and off the field “Robinson said.

Berhalter echoed those sentiments.

“We give people second chances,” he said. “We work with people. We help them overcome situations like this. We will do the same with Sergiño. … We need to have good conversations with them to make sure we get them on the right path.

Gn sports

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