Sports

At least an American, Sergiño Dest, was in a position to blow El Clásico

Barcelona’s US defender Sergiño Dest (C) clears the ball past Barcelona’s German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF.

Barcelona’s US defender Sergiño Dest (C) clears the ball past Barcelona’s German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF.
Image: Getty Images

It’s always a touch reductive and harsh to boil down a game to a single chance or moment. There are 90 minutes, after all, and you’d like to believe that each team will create more chances and those are allowed to go in as well. But soccer being what it is, there’s only one or two or three goals per game, which greatly shift flows and momentum and alter what comes after them. And just as importantly, the goals you don’t get don’t force those changes and shifts.

So Sergiño Dest, my dude…

You want to give Dest the benefit of the doubt. This is only his second game playing as a forward/winger for Barcelona instead of fullback. Chances and finishes look different from there than they do when you’re joining the attack late from fullback or wingback, where Dest has played his whole career. But you can only go so far, and this has gotta go in. It’s gotta hit the target at least.

Especially for a team as limited as Barcelona, which ate it in El Clásico 2-1 to Real Madrid. They spent the rest of the game creating very little, stunted by a Madrid defense that really only had to crowd the middle of the field thanks to Barcelona’s bluntness. They needed this goal to get Madrid to come out, to get more space, to get in behind. Dest’s miss set Barca up for this straight right to the jaw:

Madrid was just waiting for this chance to counter, though they probably didn’t think it would be started and finished by center back David Alaba going complete cowboy in a way only he can. Most center backs get a nosebleed when this far forward in open play.

These two moments make it a very different game than it had been. With Dest’s non-goal, and Madrid getting the opener, they could entrench even further defensively, dare this balloon-handed Barcelona side to get through them, and wait for another counterattack chance — which they got at the very end, to make it 2-0. Barca put all of two shots on target all game. Sadly for them, Dest’s effort wasn’t even one of them.

And Dest was quite good for the rest of the game. He got an assist on Sergio Aguero’s injury-time, who-gives-a-shit goal. When he switched back to right back in the second half he shackled Vini Jr. much better than did Óscar Mingueza, who was subbed at halftime with tire tracks on his chest. Dest also created two other chances. But that’s probably not what anyone is going to remember

The loss leaves Barcelona in ninth, and looking distinctly like that’s exactly where they belong. What Madrid are is harder to gauge, but it is their fourth-straight win over their biggest rival, which they haven’t done in decades. There’s at least a plan with Madrid. Barcelona right now is just where things happen in every direction.

If you need a silver lining as a Yank, it is the first time an American player has been in such a position in maybe the world’s biggest match. So that’s something.

I’m trying here.

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