On Thursday, Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin were named to the U.S. Men's National Team's 23-man roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Dempsey returns to his third World Cup while 20-year-old Yedlin will be among the team's youngest participants.
"I'm really excited for DeAndre," said Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson, who himself made the 1990 World Cup roster as a 19-year-old standout at UCLA. "It reminds me of 24 years ago when I was sitting next to Roberto Donadoni and Tomas Skuhravy and some of the best players around the world, and you're playing in a tournament with them. His speed is definitely one of his best assets and as a one-on-one defender that's where he can recover and make up for things. He can help cover people with his speed and he can also use that in the attack."
Dempsey, 31, is the captain of the U.S. squad and has 36 goals in 103 appearances, including one in each of the last two World Cups. He is the only American to score in consecutive World Cup tournaments and aims to join a list of just 22 players that have done that in the history of the tournament. At the time he left Sounders FC to join the World Cup camp, he was the leading scorer in MLS with eight goals, though he has since been overtaken by Bradley Wright-Phillips with the New York Red Bulls.
Yedlin is Sounders FC's first Homegrown Player and the first MLS Homegrown Player to be named to the U.S. National Team for a World Cup. He burst onto the scene in 2013 when he earned the starting role for Seattle and an MLS All-Star selection. Yedlin later received a call-up to the U.S. U-20 National Team for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey, and earned his first cap with the senior team in February in a friendly against South Korea.
Yedlin will be under a lot of pressure as the second-youngest player in camp, but one thing that will help him avoid being too awestruck will be his time with Seattle playing alongside players like Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
"It's a totally different landscape than when I was with the World Cup team," Henderson said. "He's around a guy that was a leading scorer in one of the top leagues in the world. The U.S. team is not in the same position as it was when it was just college players and there wasn't a first-division pro league. We're in a position now where we are respected in a different way."
For all the excitement surrounding Yedlin's position, there is also disappointment felt for Brad Evans, who will serve as one of the team's seven players on standby. A key contributor on the U.S. squad throughout the qualification process, Evans had earned the starting right back spot and made nine starts there in 2013.
One person who can relate to both players is Henderson. In 1990, he made Bob Gansler's team as the youngest player in the tournament. He thought it would be the first of many World Cups for him, but in 1994 he was the last player cut by Bora Milutinovic and in 1998 he was an alternate for Steve Sampson's team.
"I have a lot of feelings because I went through it three different times with three different World Cup teams and coaches," Henderson said. "Even if you're left out of the 23, you have to be ready. There are still friendly games to be played and more training."
Evans will rejoin Sounders FC, but it is unclear if he will be available on Saturday when Seattle faces Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He still stands the chance to get brought in as a late call up if the need arises.
"We're disappointed for Brad, but we're excited to have him back," Henderson said. "He's one of the 30 best players in the whole country, so we're glad to have him on our team."