NEW YORK (AP) — Defender Sergiño Dest was left off the U.S. roster for CONCACAF Nations League matches against Cuba and Canada, a decision that keeps open his option to switch allegiance from the Americans to the Netherlands.
The 18-year-old made his U.S. debut at left back in an exhibition against Mexico on Sept. 6 after playing for the Americans at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and this year’s Under-20 World Cup. The son of a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother, Dest has become a regular this season at Dutch power Ajax, which reached last year’s Champions League final.
Dest said he is being recruited by the Royal Dutch Football Association. If he played in the new Nations League, which is an official competition, he would be tied to the U.S.
In a conference call with reporters, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter declined to detail his conversations with Dest and whether the rest of the American player pool would be affected by Dest’s indecision.
Christian Pulisic, the Americans’ 21-year-old star midfielder, was included despite his benching by Chelsea. Released early from U.S. camp after the Mexico match, he has appeared just once for Chelsea since then, in the League Cup against Grimsby on Sept. 25. Pulisic did not even dress for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Lille.
“In terms of our team, his status hasn’t changed one bit. He’s a very important player for our team. He’s a catalyst for our attack,” said Berhalter, who visited Chelsea last week. “When you look at his situation with Chelsea, it’s not uncommon for a player to take some time to get settled and to adapt. You see a player like Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona is having a difficult time. This happens.”
Brenden Aaronson, an 18-year-old midfielder with Philadelphia, was the only newcomer among 26 players on the roster announced Wednesday.
“We want to see how he reacts, see how he takes in information,” Berhalter said.
Defenders DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Miazga are back on the roster after returning from injury layoffs.
Recovered from groin surgery, Yedlin entered in the 74th minute of Newcastle’s 5-0 loss at Leicester on Sunday, his first appearance in a game since April 6.
Miazga hurt a hamstring while playing for Reading on Aug. 24 and returned to start in the League Cup against Wolverhampton on Sept. 25, although he did not play in the Royals’ last two league matches.
Midfielders Tyler Adams (groin) and Tim Weah (hamstring) remain sidelined.
Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore return after missing last month’s matches to remain with their club.
The U.S. plays Cuba on Oct. 11 at Washington, D.C., then meets Canada four days later in Toronto in Berhalter’s first road match after 14 home games. The Americans host Canada on Nov. 15 at Orlando, Florida, and play Cuba four days after at George Town, Cayman Islands.
The group winner advances to the Nations League semifinals in June.
Canada hopes victories will help it move into the top six among CONCACAF nations in the FIFA rankings, which would earn a berth in the hexagonal, which will produce three qualifiers from the region for the 2022 World Cup.
Former U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann called the Nations League “a waste of time” in an interview with ESPN released this week, saying it kept top CONCACAF teams from playing more difficult teams from Europe and South America.
Berhalter said Klinsmann’s assertion that the U.S. needs to play difficult opponents “is valid” but also said “we play a role as being one of the bigger teams in this region to support events like this.”
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta), Sean Johnson (New York City), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Duesseldorf, Germany)
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading, England), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle, England), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles)
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke, Germany), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus), Jackson Yueill (San Jose)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas, Turkey), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen, Germany), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus)