2022 World Cup: USMNT legend Landon Donovan asks DeAndre Yedlin to restart Sergino Dest at fullback

While the biggest questions about predicting training for the United States at the World Cup I’m around to predict a striker and a central defender, there’s also some uncertainty about the right full-back. Sergino Dest is a talented defender with a bright future, but he has played just under 400 minutes since joining Milan from Barcelona this season, and has failed to impress in Serie A. Despite playing nine games for the club, only three defenders have played fewer minutes for Milan than Dest, and the others who have played similar nine games to him have logged more than 600 minutes. It shows Stefano Pioli’s lack of faith in the American defender. With an average of one foul every 53 minutes played, there have been times when it has been more of a disadvantage on the pitch than a help since he moved.

The concern does not stop in Italy. US soccer legend Landon Donovan has joined In Soccer We Trust to discuss the upcoming World Cup. Donovan has touched on some of his picks for the starting lineup and one intriguing inclusion is that he would be starting DeAndre Yedlin at right fullback.

“I’m worried about [Dest] sometimes defensive and if Dan James is out there…” before breaking off and making a worried face.

James is fresh off scoring a goal as a substitute for Fulham against Manchester United and his pace can cause problems for defences. He is able to trade with Brennan Johnson in support of Wales talisman Gareth Bale so Donavan has good reason to worry. James also scored two goals and two assists for Wales during World Cup qualifying, so some of the finishing issues you see in the Premier League don’t seem to be present when he’s in the national shirt and playing for Rob Page.

Starting Yedlin would give the US a stable presence on defense, but he’s also limited forward unlike Dest. Because of this, the option for Gregg Berhalter is to hide Dest’s weakness on defense by altering other points in his lineup, rather than benching him for Yedlin. With a consistent defensive line that includes Tim Ream, Dest could be licensed to move forward without worrying too much about his defensive responsibilities as that’s when he’s at his best, but midfield, led by Weston McKennie, will play a big part in that.

Listen below and follow along In Football We Trust: A Sports Football Podcast from CBS where your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you might want to know about the US Men’s National Team during the World Cup Qatar.

While McKennie is back in training there, there are questions about whether he is fit for 90 minutes after missing the last four games for Juventus before the World Cup break with a muscle injury. McKennie has scored three goals and assisted one more in all competitions and his energy is contagious across the country.

“The guy who really keeps this team going is Weston. When they’re at their best, Christian [Pulisic] Sure, Branden [Aaronson] and the way he’s playing, but when Weston is at his peak, he’s unstoppable and unplayable,” Donovan said on who needs to step up for the USMNT to advance from Group B. “I’ve been critical of him in the past for some of his decisions off the court but here’s why. Because he is so valuable to this team and I think if he is at his best the team will be really good.”

In September of 2021, McKennie was suspended from national team duty during World Cup qualifiers due to a breach of COVID protocol. This is even after serving a ban for Juventus for violating their protocols as well. But a year later, McKennie has grown as a player.

“I think it was a learning lesson, I think when I came back [to the team] that it was important for me to put my head down and work. And Juventus have definitely helped me a lot with that,” McKennie said while in the national team in February. “And as you know I struggled for a while, I lost confidence and as I said, it was a learning lesson. I let down my team and let down my country, my team, my family and myself. So when I got called back it was to try and rebuild rapport and trust with everyone and just to perform. Show that I’m there for the team and there to try and win”

McKennie will now get his chance on the biggest stage in the world as his performances could help protect Dest and the defense. For the USMNT to be at its best, their Major League contingent will need to be firing all cylinders and it’s certainly doable.

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