The U.S. feels right with Sergiño Dest. And left.
Four days after scoring his first two goals for Barcelona as a right back, the 20-year-old defender shifted to the left and got his first international goal with a spectacular 25-yard strike. Dest’s 34th-minute goal started the United States to a 4-1 win over Jamaica in an exhibition on Thursday night at Wiener Neustadt, Austria.
“Right back is good for me and left back is good for me,” Dest said. “I don't prefer any, to be honest. I just like to play the game.”
Brenden Aaronson doubled the lead in the 52nd minute, and Sebastian Lletget added goals in the 83rd and 90th minutes, raising his total to six international goals.
Dest received a pass from Yunus Musah on the left side just past midfield, took about a half-dozen touches as he advanced and cut around Adrian Mariappa and past Michael Hector, then beat diving goalkeeper Jeadine Whitewith inside the far post with a curling, right-footed shot from about 25 yards.
“He’s really strong on both sides,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “On the left, what you get is what you saw tonight, the ability to come inside and combine and then shoot for himself, create for himself, open up the field dribbling inside. On the right side, it’s more of a vertical type of game.”
While the U.S. has had difficulty finding left backs, it has DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon, Antonee Robinson and Bryan Reynolds as options on the right.
“Sergiño's sick — he's so good,” Aaronson said.
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Jamal Lowe got Jamaica’s goal in the 70th minute on a counterattack, chipping goalkeeper Zack Steffen after Andrew Gray slipped a pass by Cannon.
Dest, who scored twice at Real Sociedad on Sunday, made his sixth international appearance and got to combine on the left with Christian Pulisic, who returned to the U.S. lineup for the first time since October 2019 and played the first half.
“The chemistry is good right now, off the field and in the field,” Dest said. “But, yeah, I think if you play more often, it’s only getting better.”
The 22nd-ranked Americans, preparing for a Nations League semifinal against Honduras in June and the start of World Cup qualifying in September, have seven wins and a draw in their last eight matches, and they’ve outscored opponents 23-3 in winning four consecutive friendlies.
“I thought we got better and better,” Berhalter said "The only thing we lacked was the movement behind the back line.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this was just the third match on a FIFA fixture date for the Americans since November 2019.
The Americans play on Sunday at No. 45 Northern Ireland, which opened World Cup qualifying on Thursday at Italy and figures to be cautious this weekend ahead of a qualifier against Bulgaria next Wednesday.
Kellyn Acosta played defensive midfield in the absence of Weston McKennie. Musah, who made a long-term commitment to U.S. this month over England, played in central midfield rather than his wide position at Valencia.
Pulisic created more openings as the first half went on, then was replaced at the start of the second half by Aaronson. Aaronson doubled the lead with his second international goal, a 4-yard shot off a pass from Josh Sargent, who had dribbled around Ethan Pinnock.
Aaronson has showed increase confidence since going on loan from Philadelphia to Red Bull Salzburg in January. “I'm just happy to be here,” Aaronson said. “My chance is to come off the bench and just take advantage of it, which I did.”
Lletget scored on a pair of one-timed shots, off passes from Nicholas Gioacchini and Luca de La Torre in the 90th.
While Pulisic, McKennie, Dest and Tyler Adams have received much of the attention in this young American group, the 28-year-old Lletget has become a regular with the national team since returning in late 2018 from a severe foot injury suffered in a World Cup qualifier against Honduras in March 2017.
“I’m pretty low key,” he said. “I hope they keep getting in the limelight, and they deserve it.”
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