USMNT coach Berhalter calls Dest red card ‘dumb mistake’

The United States men’s national soccer team qualified for the 2024 Copa America on Monday night despite a 2-1 loss to host Trinidad and Tobago in which American right back Sergiño Dest was sent off for what coach Gregg Berhalter called a “dumb mistake.”

Coming into the game — which also served as a quarterfinal matchup in the Concacaf Nations League — up 3-0 on aggregate following a win on Thursday, the U.S. took complete control in the 25th minute on a goal from Antonee Robinson.

It appeared to be clear sailing from there, with Trinidad and Tobago needing to outscore the U.S. by five goals to flip the result. But 14 minutes later, Dest picked up one of the most inexplicable red cards in U.S. national team history.

Seemingly upset with an officiating decision from moments earlier, Dest first punted the ball into the stands. To the dismay of teammates around him, most notably Giovanni Reyna, Dest continued to have words with the referee, earning a red card via a second yellow.

“It is concerning because that’s not what we want to represent,” Berhalter said. “That’s not who we are as a group. We pride ourselves in staying mentally disciplined, battling through any type of conditions, whether they’re good decisions or bad decisions. We’re supposed to keep going and respond in an appropriate way, and that obviously wasn’t the right response from Sergino.”

The U.S. went on to see out the match with 10 players, winning 4-2 on aggregate despite losing the second leg. Dest apologized to teammates and fans on Instagram following the match.

After picking up a red card earlier this year against Mexico in the Nations League semifinals, Dest becomes the first U.S. player since 1990 to receive two red cards in the same calendar year. He will be unavailable to play in the Nations League semifinals in March.

“He apologized to the group. He said it’s not going to happen again,” Berhalter said. “As a team, the players, the staff, we need to hold him accountable because it’s inexcusable. It really is. And we were very firm with our words after the game.

“He put a number of guys in jeopardy, made a number of guys do a lot of extra work in this weather, and it’s inexcusable.”

As Dest walked off the field, he was taken to task by captain Tim Ream and needed to be pushed off the field by goalkeeper Matt Turner as he sauntered back toward the U.S. bench and into the locker room.

In a postgame interview for television, Robinson called Dest’s antics “a moment of unprofessionalism.”

Berhalter was unwilling to speculate over whether Dest could receive additional punishment for his actions.

“He’s a young player. He’s a fantastic part of this team,” Berhalter said. “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 move forward.”

The Copa America will feature all 10 CONMEBOL teams along with six teams from Concacaf and will be hosted by the United States. The tournament will begin June 20 in Atlanta and conclude July 14 in Miami.

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