When Sounders FC started training camp in January, there was a thought that they would be able to ease 19-year-old Homegrown Player DeAndre Yedlin into his professional career.
However, the O’Dea High School product was not to be denied and seized the opportunity to earn a starting role with the Sounders. His play over the first 13 regular season matches and four matches in CONCACAF Champions League got him back into the international picture, as well. Now he is in Turkey with the U.S. U-20 National Team playing in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“I have mixed feelings. I don’t want to leave here but it’s going to be a great experience over there,” Yedlin said after the Sounders topped the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-2 on June 8. “I am excited to join that team to see what we can do and see what we can mix up over there. It’s a bunch of mixed feelings—overwhelmed, excited—but I think it will be a good experience.”
In Yedlin exists the rare commodity of humble confidence. It’s a trait that has allowed him to be among the top rookies in Major League Soccer thus far in the 2013 season and still seek advice from every channel available.
For that, he has called on Brad Evans, who returned to the Sounders on Thursday after an extended stint with the US National Team in World Cup qualifying matches, 12-year professional Zach Scott and assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson, who was one of the league’s top rightbacks in MLS during his 12 years in the league.
“It’s pretty remarkable. He just has his head on his shoulders,” said Scott, who is among the candidates to fill the rightback role while Yedlin is away. “You could be a young guy coming in and get some success like he has and it quickly goes to your head, but that’s not the case with him at all. He’s always been very receptive to the veterans and I think he’s done a tremendous job.”
For Hendrickson, Yedlin has been a coach’s dream.
“He’s a natural. I get him clips from games and show him things and he just soaks everything up and he’s just so naturally gifted as an athlete that it’s not hard for him to catch on,” he said.
He is poised to play a big role for the U.S. U-20s as they take on Spain, France and Ghana in the bi-annual tournament. Head coach Tab Ramos singled Yedlin out as an important member of the team in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday and his ability to step up in big games is one of the reasons he is so valued on the international level.
He has already had several instances that could be considered breakout moments, but the most glaring came when he dared to smash a long-range volley while the Sounders were trailing Tigres UANL 2-0 in the second half of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, starting Seattle on the comeback trail in a series they wound up winning, 3-2.
“There are a number of things he brings to the table, with the number one thing being his experience at this point. Having played a bunch of professional games over the past few months, and having trained in a professional environment where he has to earn his position every day is certainly great for us,” Ramos said. “He was one of those pieces that we didn’t have to speak to too much as far as trying to fit him into our roster.”
Yedlin will continue with the U.S. throughout the U-20 World Cup, meaning he could be out through July 13 if they are able to reach the semifinals, which would ensure either an appearance in the final or the third place game. That means he will miss at least one match and as many as three more beyond that.
And while he plans to keep up with how the Sounders are progressing while he is gone, he is also cherishing his time on the international stage.
“I think right now, it’s more exciting,” Yedlin said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming, but it’s not a bad problem to have. It’s been fun.”