Colorado Coach Pablo Mastroeni threw Dillon Serna into Wednesday night’s match against the Red Bulls in the 87th minute, hardly enough time for the versatile 21 year old to make an impression.
But afterwards Serna was happy with a 1-1 draw, telling GotSoccer, “it’s a good point on the road.” Rather than gripe about playing time, Serna’s focus was on the team. “I think anytime you come into a place like this and get a result, it’s good.”
Just eight days earlier Serna went 81 minutes when the U.S. U23 team topped Mexico 3-0 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Serna lined up at left fullback for the Olympic aspirants, and that ability to play multiple positions could be key to getting the skillful youngster on the pitch, for both club and country.
“You know,” Serna told GotSoccer, “I played left back against Mexico, so anyplace they think I can help the team out I’d be willing to play.” Mastroeni feels that, “it’s important as a young guy to be flexible because if you are too position specific at a young age, and that position doesn’t open up for whatever reason, you’ll be waiting a long time.”
“As he continues to grow,” Mastroeni said of Serna, “there’s going to be opportunities in either wide position (in the midfield), there’s going to be opportunities in the left back spot as well, where he played his last game for the Olympic team, and he needs to do well with the opportunities that he’s given going forward.”
As one of the final cuts from the 2013 U20 World Cup team, Serna is well aware of what is at stake, and admits he is driven by that earlier let down.
“Yeah, yeah for sure,” Serna told GotSoccer at Red Bull Arena. “I was obviously disappointed that I didn’t get the call for the World Cup.” “I played a lot of the qualifying games,” Serna recalled, “so obviously it was a disappointment for me not making the final roster, so I am going to push as hard as I can, and hopefully be on the plane to Brazil.”
A member of the Rapids youth academy, Serna signed a Homegrown contract with Colorado in 2013 after playing a single season at the University of Akron. The Brighton, Colorado native made his professional debut in Colorado’s final match that year, before earning a bigger role in 2014.
Playing primarily in the midfield Serna contributed three goals last season, earning a call up to the U.S. National Team January training camp. With a busy 2015 approaching for the U.S. MNT at the senior, U20 and U23 levels, Jurgen Klinsmann brought a mixed squad of players to Carson, including Serna and his Colorado teammate Shane O’Neill.
Neither of the young Rapids saw the pitch when the U.S. faced Chile and Panama after camp wrapped, but Klinsmann assistant, and the new U.S. Olympic team coach Andi Herzog, evidently liked what he saw of the Coloradans.
O’Neill played every minute of the U23 team’s first two games under Herzog, a 5-2 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina and a 1-0 loss to Denmark. Serna did not make the European jaunt, but was of course called in for the match against Mexico, as was O’Neill, who went the full 90 once again.
It seems somewhat surprising then that neither O’Neill or Serna has been able to earn consistent minutes this season for the last place Rapids.
But after opening the season with three consecutive 0-0 draws and 2-0 home loss to New England, the Rapids have gradually improved, leaving the two young U.S. internationals fighting for minutes.
Mastroeni described Serna’s situation as a “logjam.” But when asked to describe Serna’s game, his coach is enthusiastic. “He’s got a nose for goal, he’s industrious in his work and he’s willing to learn,” is how Mastroeni put it.
That “nose for goal” was never more apparent than it was in a 1-1 tie with DC United last August at RFK Stadium. Just Google Dillon Serna goal and you will see for yourself that his coach has a point.
For Serna, his twin goals of solidifying his spot with the Rapids, and earning a seat on the plane to Rio go hand in hand. Asked if he thinks he can have a breakout year in 2015 for Colorado, Serna told GotSoccer “Yeah, I hope so.” “Last year, “ he explained, “was my first full season playing a consistent role on the team, so I’m just looking to build on that and hopefully just keep growing and have an even better year this year.”
And what about that Olympic team? “Well,” Serna told GotSoccer, “I love going with national team, I enjoy it, getting good quality games – it was a good game against Mexico – and it just gives me a lot of confidence coming back to the club.”
So is the midfielder/fullback confident that he can erase the disappointment of 2013? “Yeah, for sure,” Serna told GotSoccer. “I think we’ve done well to this point, I think I’ve got a good relationship with the coach (Herzog), he gives me good feedback, so I’m just focusing on doing anything I can with Colorado.”
“I think,” Serna concluded, “if I just keep doing good things here (with the Rapids) the calls will keep coming.”