When Marco Di Vaio charged up the left side of the box in the 58th minute, the Sounders needed a gutsy tackle to prevent the veteran of top leagues in Italy, Spain and France from a wide open path to goal.
That tackle came from 19-year-old Homegrown Player DeAndre Yedlin, who showed the savvy of a right back many years his senior. And when you consider that Yedlin was just 16 months old when Di Vaio made his Serie A debut in 1994, the edge-of-the-box tackle is all the more impressive.
Such was Yedlin’s professional debut on Saturday.
"I thought for a young man making his debut at home there could have been a lot of pressure,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He could have not handled that well, but I thought he handled it well. I thought he played well. I thought he had a good game."
Yedlin’s heroics weren’t limited to that play though. In the 50th minute, he headed clear a shot from Di Vaio after a scramble near the penalty spot left the goal open.
Beyond that, his eight interceptions were the most of any player in the match. He was also comfortable enough to press forward and make overlapping runs up the right side. Throughout the match, he showed a boldness beyond his years, though his mantra going into the match was to keep his game simple, taking the advice of fifth-year MLS defender Zach Scott, who is in his 12th year playing pro soccer in Seattle.
“Zach told me to play simple, build your confidence and then go from there,” Yedlin said. “It was definitely a good experience.”
Yedlin has looked to Scott as a mentor in his first season in MLS, but the Seattlite is in an all-new position for the Sounders FC.
The club’s first Homegrown Player, Yedlin played one season in the Sounders FC Academy before going to Akron, where he was a two-time All-Conference performer after posting one goal and six assists in 24 matches as a freshman and six assists in 22 matches as a sophomore. His path may differ, but Scott still has plenty to teach Yedlin.
“I was 28 and starting my first MLS game. He’s 19 and he showed that he belongs in the league,” Scott said. “It’s easy to get pretty amped up and find yourself out of your element, but I don’t think he showed that at all.”
It’s still very early in the season and Yedlin started in place of the injured Adam Johansson, but if his work ethic and play in his first match are any indication, he’ll have a long, successful career ahead.