By Matthew Levine, Special to SoccerWire.com
DeAndre Yedlin’s career has gotten off to a whirlwind start. Less than a full calendar year after signing his first professional contract, the Seattle Sounders fullback represented the U.S. Men’s National Team. Even Yedlin couldn’t forecast the almost instant success he has found.
“No, I didn’t expect it. I think you always work for it, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” he told SoccerWire.com via telephone. “It’s been a lot to handle, but it’s definitely not a bad problem to have.”
After a strong club season, in which he was named to the MLS All-Star team, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to call up Yedlin for the January camp.
“I was a bit surprised. I think I had a pretty good year, but that definitely is a big step and a big honor so it’s a mix of being surprised and being excited and a little bit nervous,” Yedlin said.
The Seattle native got his first real test of international competition after receiving a call-up to the U-20 National Team by Tab Ramos and participating in that age group’s World Cup last year.
In that tournament, the U.S. competed against Spain, France and Ghana in the group stage. Although they were only able to take one point in a draw against France, it was still a good test and learning experience for Yedlin — who mae a late surge onto Ramos’ roster — and his teammates.
“It was an amazing experience. It was a good comparison where I’m at compared to other players around the world and kind of where the U.S. is at, even though we didn’t make it out of the group,” he said.
“In a game, some might call it a blowout against Spain [a 4-1 loss], I think we actually played pretty well against them, just a little bit of extra edge they had against us. I think it was a kind of game where we were just a little tired.”
The U.S. was also beaten handily by Ghana, who will be an opponent in the group stage for the USMNT this summer. Yedlin did believe that the 1-1 draw with France showed “America is progressing well in the sport and are going to have a good change for the future.”
However, playing at the senior national team level presented even more challenges. The biggest adjustment Yedlin needed to make was in the speed of play.
“Once you’re out there you get used to it and have to get comfortable with it. It took me a little while, while I was in camp,” he said.
Having veteran Sounders teammate Brad Evans in the camp helped the fullback greatly. Both players competed for the right back position with Yedlin replacing Evans against Korea Republic, playing the final 16 minutes in a 2-0 victory. Although they were and to some extent still will be competing for a place in the squad for the upcoming World Cup, their relationship remains unchanged.
“He obviously wants that spot, he knows that I do as well. He wants to see the best for me just like he wants the best for himself. He’s been a great mentor for me throughout the process,” said Yedlin.
With so much success for the Sounders in his first year, one eventual career move may see Yedlin head to Europe. Klinsmann continually urges his players to test themselves in the best leagues in the world and Yedlin has taken notice.
“I know Jurgen likes his players to be in Europe, but when that time comes I’ll be open to it,” he said.
Although many players may want to jump right into the Barclays Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, Yedlin wants to take a more pragmatic approach to any potential career abroad.
“I think the Belgium [Jupiler Pro League] and French league [Ligue Un] and even the league in Holland [Eredivise] are great leagues,” said Yedlin.
“For one, [they are] young players’ leagues and two, there’s a lot of talent there. I think if one day that ever comes up those would be great leagues for me to start in.”
For now though he is solely focused on his second season with the Sounders. Yedlin knows that his play at the club level will ultimately determine his chances of booking his ticket on the plane to Brazil as part of the 23-man World Cup squad. In order to do that he wants to improve his “defensive positioning, tactically and on the ball.”
The Sounders fell short of their ultimate goal of winning the club’s first MLS Cup last season, losing to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals. However, the club reshuffled its roster this winter in the hopes of winning the MLS title thathas eluded them since their arrival in the league in 2009.
As a hometown boy, Yedlin would like nothing more than to lift the MLS Cup in Seattle.
“Obviously you just want to win, but at the end of the day here you’re always working to be the best so that’s what we want to be,” he said. “It would be a great feeling to be here for this city and this club’s first MLS Cup and kind of add your name to history.”