Sergiño Dest lost his temper in a needless dispute with the referee, receiving a pair of yellow cards for dissent in a 30-second span that put the United States’ place in next year’s Copa América in jeopardy.
Trinidad won 2-1 on Monday night in Port of Spain, overcoming a deficit by scoring twice after a 39th-minute whistle from the United States left the United States short, the Americans holding on for a 4-2 all-goal series. win and earn. spots in the Copa América 16 nations and the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Nations League.
US captain Tim Ream revealed there were “choice words” for Dest at half-time.
“There aren’t too many things I can say publicly here that we said privately,” said Ream. “It’s a complete lack of respect for guys on the bench, on the field.”
After a 3-0 win in Austin, Texas last week, Antonee Robinson scored in the 25th minute from a Dest cross to give the 11th-placed USA a four-goal series lead in the Nations League quarterfinals.
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Reon Moore tied the score in the 43rd from a long ball from Alvin Jones, getting past defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and beating Turner at the near post. Jones put the 99th Soca Warriors ahead in the 57th with a 30-yard free kick off the hands of goalkeeper Matt Turner, who tried to keep the swinging shot. Jones scored a similar long-range goal in October 2017 against Tim Howard in a 2-1 win over Couva, about 20 miles south, that ended the Americans’ streak of seven World Cup appearances.
The United States was in charge until Dest, upset that an assistant referee ruled that he did not keep a ball from going out near the middle of the field, punted the ball away towards the end. That earned him the first yellow from Guatemalan referee Walter López, and the 23-year-old defender then headed in a goal that no foul had been called moments earlier when he was pushed over by Andre Rampersad.
“It’s inexcusable,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter. “It was surreal.”
Dest argued with López and Gio Reyna with Ream trying to keep him away, Reyna trying to cover Dest’s mouth. López raised two fingers and showed the second yellow and red. Ream and Turner screamed at Dest as he walked off the field.
“It’s a concern because that’s not what we represent, that’s not who we are as a group,” Berhalter said. “We pride ourselves on staying mentally disciplined, fighting through any kind of conditions. Whether they are good decisions or bad decisions, we are supposed to continue and react in an appropriate way, and that was clearly not the right response from Sergiño. He apologized the group. He said it’s not going to happen again. As a team, the players, the team, we have to hold him accountable.”
The destination will be suspended for the Nations League semi-final in March. He missed this year’s Nations League final after receiving a red card and a three-match ban for scuffling in the semi-final against Mexico.
“We were very strict with our words after the game,” said Berhalter. “It put some guys in danger, some guys did a lot of extra work in this weather.”
American team spokesman Michael Kammarman said CONCACAF rules prohibit players who receive red cards from speaking to the media after matches. CONCACAF general secretary Philippe Moggio referred a request for comment to spokesman Alvaro Urrutia, who cited the regulation. Neither Moggio nor Urrutia explained why the rule blocking media access was in place.
“Serge has done a great job of maturing and growing over the years he’s been with the group and this must be a learning experience for him,” Berhalter said. “We give people a second chance. We work with people. We help them overcome situations like this.”
“The thing is I don’t want this to turn into a witch hunt,” said Berhalter. “He’s a young player, he’s a great part of the team. He’s going to learn. He’s going to grow. He made a dumb mistake. He knows that. He apologized to the team and we moved on.”
USA finished the year with 11 wins, four losses and three draws, going 4-2 in the beginning of Berhalter’s second term as coach. The game in the Hasely Crawford Stadium was mostly empty for 34 years and one day after Paul Caligiuri’s goal there the United States rose to a 1-0 victory and into its first World Cup in 40 years.
Robinson scored on a diving header from a Dest cross, meeting Shannon Gomez and deflecting the ball past goalkeeper Denzil Smith from 10 yards for his fourth international goal and second in two games. Robinson tucked the ball under his jersey in celebration to announce that his fiancée was expecting a baby in April.
The feeling was similar to that in Costa Rica in March 2022, when the USA qualified for the World Cup despite a 2-0 defeat.
“Obviously it’s bittersweet,” Robinson said.
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