Midweek musings

Dest & Dotson shine, Pulisic starts, Miazga returns, Durkin & Sonora debut

The midweek was busy for American players with notable outings in places ranging from Minnesota, England, Argentina, and Belgium. Meanwhile, the Sergino Dest saga takes another turn. As always, ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here to walk you through it. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 26, 2019
4:55 PM
AS THE FOCUS shifts to the weekend, the midweek slate of games, both domestically and abroad, brought a lot of talking points that set the stage for the weeks and months ahead.

The midweek games in MLS saw both meltdowns and players rising to the occasion. The abroad contingent had some standout performances and even a few notable debuts.

Here is a look at some of what is going on.

Dest shines and given ultimatum

Sergino Dest, 18, earned the start for Ajax and played 78 minutes in an easy win over struggling Fortuna Sittard. Once again, Dest was very sharp and showed a lot of skill on the ball. Going against an overmatched opponent, Dest was able to get into the attack and push forward effectively.

What was most interesting came Thursday when it was reported that Dutch manager Ronald Koeman wants Dest to decide within a week.

There are a lot of ways to look at this. If you want to be optimistic for the United States, this could look like an act of desperation from the Koeman and the Dutch federation. Why do they feel necessary to adopt this strategy? It also could anger Dest, that while he might probably have preferred to play for the Netherlands being that is where he grew up, the Dutch federation ignored him his whole life and are now the ones demanding an immediate answer to their newfound interest (at what level they see Dest at within their program is also not clear. We don’t know if it is for their U-19, U-21, or full national team).

On the other hand, perhaps Koeman senses Dest is leaning towards Holland and now only needs something to nudge him across the finish line in terms of making a switch?

But there is also the possibility Dest could ignore the ultimatum and decide whenever he is ready. If he is that good, will the Dutch refuse to accept him playing for them if it takes him until November, December, or next year to decide? No. Neither the Dutch nor the United States will refuse to consider him for the team if he’s good enough – no matter when he makes that decision.

Dest holds all the cards here and that is what makes the ultimatum silly. The best bet is that it does nothing to help the Dutch federation’s chances. But will it hurt them? Maybe. The only one who knows the answer to how this might all play out is Dest.

Miazga returns, converts penalty, for Reading

After missing the last few games for both Reading and the United States national team due to a quad injury, Matt Miazga returned for Reading’s match on Wednesday vs. Wolves in the League Cup.

The game finished 1-1 after 120 minutes. In the shootout, Wolves prevailed 4-2 but one of the two goals for Reading in the shootout was scored by Miazga. It was a rare chance from the spot for the central defender but it was interesting he got the nod despite the shootout not going to extra rounds.

Pulisic gets start vs. Grimsby Town

After not getting any minutes in Chelsea’s previous three games, Christian Pulisic got the start in the League Cup vs. fourth-tier Grimsby Town. It was a much lower profile game for the club but still an important opportunity for Pulisic who needs to seize any opportunity he gets

Chelsea won 7-1 and Pulisic got an assist against a completely overmatched opponent.

It was a performance that likely preserved the status quo. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. But with Chelsea struggling in both the league and Champions League, all bets are off in how Frank Lampard makes adjustments.

Durkin and Sonora debut

Two young American players made club debuts during midweek cup matches.

In Belgium, Chris Durkin came off the bench for St. Truiden in a Belgian Cup match vs. lower-tier OH Leuven. Durkin entered in the 80th minute with the score 0-0 and played the remaining 10 minutes of regulation plus 30 minutes of extra time. St. Truiden ended up winning 2-0 with both goals scored with Durkin on the field.

That can only bode well for him getting a chance in First Division games as St. Truiden sits in 10th place. This weekend it will host reigning champions Genk.

In the Copa Argentina, New Jersey-born Alan Sonora, 21, came off the bench in the 66th minute for Independiente in a 1-0 road win over Defensa y Justicia (the goal was scored before Sonora entered the game).

The younger bother of 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder Joel Sonora, Alan Sonora has never represented the United States but is eligible as he was born in the country when his father played for the Metrostars in 1998.

Dotson continues to impress

Hassani Dotson, 22, has been one of the best stories for young American players this year in MLS. The rookie out of Seattle has grown into an important player for Minnesota. Earlier in the month, he made his U.S. debut when he started for the U-23 team in a 2-0 win over Japan.

On Wednesday night, Dotson scored his fourth goal of the season when his 90th minute winner gave Minnesota a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. But it wasn’t just an ordinary win. Rather, it clinched the first ever playoff berth for United.

All of Dotson’s goals this year have displayed a high level of skill. This goal was no different. Yes, it took a fortunate deflection but the run into the box to get into a nice position to shoot was impressive.

Dotson is interesting because he both athletic, skillful, and versatile. He has played all over the field but is now finding regular minutes in his preferred central midfield. It is very easy to see Jason Kreis giving a big role to Dotson as the U.S. U-23 team heads towards Olympic qualifying.

Quakes, RSL, and Portland choke

The last three playoff positions in the Western Conference are going to go to teams that just can’t seem to step up and get a win under pressure. If either the San Jose Quakes, Real Salt Lake, Portland Timbers, or FC Dallas can just win a game these days, they would likely punch a ticket. But none of them can seem to find a way.

On Wednesday night, three teams (San Jose, Real Salt Lake, and Portland) were in action. None of them were able to get wins. San Jose and Portland were clear chokes. Real Salt Lake lost a tough but winnable game at home to the Galaxy.

Portland had a 2-0 lead on the Revolution in the 87th minute but allowed two late goals and settled for a 2-2 draw. The loss capped a completely botched 10-game homestand. The Timbers won its first two games of the stand but then only won twice in its last eight. This stand was supposed to see the club move into a position where it could host a playoff game. Instead, it still might unthinkably miss out instead.

Between contract negotiations with Diego Valeri hiiting an impasse and a disaster of a homestand, it's been an awful month for the club. 

San Jose had a 1-0 lead in the 70th minute of their game against Philadelphia but lost 2-1. Yes, the officiating was suspect but San Jose clearly could have done better. Now with its fourth loss in a row, it’s outside the playoff positions by a point.

But something is clearly wrong win Quake-land because good teams don’t block access to the media after good games. The Quakes did this after the loss. It makes you wonder why? Who made the decision? Is it simply due to frustration or the reluctance to say something publicly about officiating that could lead to a fine? Or was their a dust-up between players that the team did not want the media to see?

It was a poor decision by either Matias Almeyda or someone else at the Quakes, it goes against club policy, and will now lead to speculation about internal problems within the team.

LAFC back on track

Los Angeles FC snapped its five-game winless streak with a convincing 3-1 win over Houston. It was only a matter of time before Bob Bradley had the team back to its high standard.

But this game gave us a goal of beauty from Eduard Atuesta.

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