World Cup clock: Tough start in Milan for US defender Dest
United States defender Sergiño Dest joined Italian champions AC Milan in hopes of getting more playing time ahead of the World Cup.
He got off to a difficult start.
“American Horror Story, a 45-minute episode,” is how Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport described Dest’s Serie A debut, giving him a five out of 10 rating for his performance in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Napoli. Other newspapers called it “a disaster” or just “bad”.
Dest, on loan from Barcelona on transfer deadline day, had played in both group games of the Milan Champions League but made his Italian debut when he came on for Davide Calabria at half-time against Napoli.
He struggled from the start and missed the penalty that led to the opening goal – and Milan’s first loss of the season – after less than 10 minutes when he fouled fast Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
“Dest is a good player. Just like Kvaratskhelia,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli. “Calabria also fought against the Georgian.”
Dest, 21, has a Surinamese American father and Dutch mother and chose to play for the United States rather than the Netherlands, where he was born and raised. He has scored two goals in 17 games for the national team.
Dest started his career at Ajax before moving to Barcelona for €21m ($24.7m at the time) two years ago but has failed to establish himself as a regular.
In his first season at Barcelona, he had many minutes under coach Ronald Koeman, but then his playing time gradually decreased. Nevertheless, he had chances in the Europa League last season under coach Xavi Hernández, but was unable to take advantage of them either.
And Dest knew he needed a permanent place on a team with the World Cup coming up in November.
US coach Gregg Berhalter plans to announce his World Cup squad on November 9, five days ahead of FIFA’s deadline.
A first-choice right-back for the American team, Dest is also a backup on the left behind Antonee Robinson.
If he’s healthy, Dest looks almost guaranteed to start against Wales in the Americans’ opening group game on November 21 – DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon, Joe Scally are big drop-offs in comparison – but he’d like to find some form with him after Qatar.
WAITING FOR REUS
Germany are anxiously waiting to see if Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus will be ready in time for the World Cup after suffering a serious-looking ankle injury in Saturday’s Ruhr derby.
Dortmund said 33-year-old Reus would be out for three to four weeks with a ligament injury in his right ankle. It appears to be an optimistic assessment from a club that has a history of bringing players back from injuries too early – USA midfielder Gio Reyna had suffered repeated setbacks last season.
Reus has only played 48 games for Germany. He missed the team’s 2014 World Cup win with an ankle injury and Euro 2016 with a groin injury. He played at the World Cup in 2018 but skipped the next European Championship to recover after his season with Dortmund.
National coach Hansi Flick called up Leipzig defender Benjamin Henrichs as a substitute for the upcoming games against Hungary and England.
THE TRIAL OF DE TOMÁS
Spain striker Raúl de Tomás thought his chances of reaching the World Cup were surely over when his move from Espanyol to Rayo Vallecano didn’t materialize in time.
Due to the delay, he won’t be able to play in the league again until January.
But there was a glimmer of hope for 27-year-old de Tomás after Spain manager Luis Enrique opened up about his situation last week. The manager hasn’t included the player in his final list for upcoming Nations League games, but hasn’t ruled him out of the Qatar tournament either.
“Each case is different,” said Luis Enrique. “Raúl de Tomás was recently called up. It’s a completely unusual situation. You don’t always see a player who can’t sign for a team at the last minute and has to be sidelined for a few months. We won’t be able to see him play, but I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s difficult, but I can’t say at the moment.”
De Tomás, who accused Espanyol of the Rayo Vallecano deal not working out, has four games for the Spanish national team, including two this year.
Union Berlin striker Jordan Pefok has not given up playing for USA at the World Cup despite missing warm-up games against Japan and Saudi Arabia from coach Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man squad.
Pefok scored the opener in Sunday’s 2-0 win against Wolfsburg to help Union stay top of the Bundesliga.
“Who doesn’t hope to play in the World Cup if their country qualifies?” asked the French-speaking Pefok after the game.
“The coach decides. I play the games with joy, I always try to do my best,” said Pefok. “After that, as we say in France, we pay the musicians at the end of the ball.”
AP sports writers Ciarán Fahey in Berlin and Tales Azzoni in Madrid contributed to this report.
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