DeAndre Yedlin can't help but to smile at his current situation. The 20-year-old Seattle native is just 17 months removed from signing his first professional contract with Sounders FC, now he finds himself on the brink of the biggest stage in the world of sports.
Yedlin is among 30 players in camp with the U.S. National Team as Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann makes the final preparations for next month’s 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. That roster will be paired down to 23 names by June 2 and the Seattle defender is not only striving to make the cut, but impress enough to earn a spot on the field.
"It's pretty amazing that I'm in this position. But it doesn't stop here. I'm going to keep pushing to make that 23 and do whatever I can to impress the staff. That's the next step for me, so that's what I'll be focused on," Yedlin said. "The next step is to be in the starting 11. There's always something I can do to get better. I can never be satisfied."
That approach has helped Yedlin quickly rise through the professional ranks. When he signed before the 2013 season, he was slated behind Adam Johansson at right back for the Sounders. A regular for the Sweden National Team, Johansson was battling injuries in training camp and that opened the door for Yedlin to grab the attention of the Seattle coaching staff. In that time, he took ahold of the starting role and hasn't let go.
In his first season, he earned attention as an MLS All-Star and finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year honors, but also jumped onto the radar for the National Team. He played all three matches for the U.S. U-20s in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, and in January was invited to Klinsmann's January camp with the full national team. At the end of that camp, he made his international debut in a friendly against South Korea and was invited back for another friendly in March against Mexico where he made his second appearance, both coming in a substitute role.
Now in his second season, he is being viewed through a much more critical lens. Whereas he was seen for what he was in 2013 – a 19-year-old playing his first professional season – he now is viewed for what he could become – the U.S. National Team starting right back.
It's a difficult transition for Yedlin that comes with a lot of criticisms, but that scrutiny has only made him stronger on the field.
"I've been put under more of a critical eye, so my flaws are coming out a little bit more. People were surprised in the first year, and now I'm just trying to prove wrong anyone who has doubts," Yedlin said. "That's the best. That's even more challenging when you get put under that microscope and that's what I want. That's how I make myself better as a player and that's ultimately what I want. I want to be the best that I can be."
While he will be the first to admit that he has flaws, Yedlin takes comfort in the fact that he also has the confidence of his Sounders FC coaches and teammates, along with Klinsmann.
He also knows that he will have to be at his best to further impress Klinsmann and earn a seat on the plane to Brazil, but Sounders FC's first ever Homegrown Player is prepared to rise to that challenge.
"I just keep telling myself to play simple. That's been the biggest thing to help me with the national team. Once I get a little bit more comfortable, I can try more things, but the biggest thing is to stay simple," he said. "It's pretty incredible. This has all come so fast. You just can't get overwhelmed about it. You just have to realize that you're there for a reason and stay focused."
Yedlin is in U.S. camp with Sounders FC teammates Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey. The team will train at Stanford University before playing three matches against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria.