DeAndre Yedlin has been the answer to many trivia questions. Who was Sounders FC's first Homegrown player? Who was the first rookie to earn a spot on MLS Team of the Week in his pro debut? Who was the first Homegrown player named to the U.S. National Team World Cup squad?
Now he adds another first to the list as he became the first Homegrown player to play a World Cup match for the U.S. National Team when he entered Sunday's Group Stage match against Portugal in the 72nd minute, continuing a dream that has lasted 18 months and has no signs of slowing soon.
"I was just excited. This is the biggest stage. This is what every soccer player dreams of and those dreams were being made a reality, so it was pretty amazing," Yedlin told USSoccer.com after the match. "It's one of those times that you just have to calm yourself because if you're too excited, too hyped up, that's when you don't play as well."
Playing as a right midfielder as opposed to the right back position he plays with Sounders FC, Yedlin acquitted himself well in his 18 minutes of action, getting forward in a pivotal moment in the 81st minute to cross the ball for Clint Dempsey in the middle of the box. The cross was defended and fell to Michael Bradley, whose shot deflected to Graham Zusi on the left side. Zusi then found Dempsey for the go-ahead goal.
It was a memorable moment for Yedlin and for U.S. Soccer, but wasn't enough to get the victory, as Portugal stormed back for a stoppage-time equalizer in the 2-2 draw. For the 20-year-old Seattle native, it was a good start to his World Cup career even if it didn't come in victory.
"I probably could have done a little bit more, but I got a good cross in that lead to the second goal," Yedlin said. "I'm just looking to help out wherever I can with this team. I thought I did okay with that today."
Yedlin burst onto the scene when he signed with Sounders FC in January of 2013 after two seasons at the University of Akron. A product of the Sounders FC Academy and the Sounders FC U-23s, he immediately took over the starting right back role and never looked back. In his first months as a pro, he earned a spot on the U.S. U-20 World Cup squad and on the MLS All-Star team, becoming the second Homegrown player ever named to the team and first rookie since 2005. At the end of the season, he was a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year award and was invited to the U.S. National Team's January camp. From there, he has continued to make strides.
U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann showed a lot of faith in including youngsters like Yedlin on the roster, along with John Brooks and Julian Green. Thus far, that faith has been rewarded with Yedlin's strong performance and Brooks netting the game-winning goal against Ghana last week.
After the match, Klinsmann was complimentary of Yedlin's performance and his growth in his time with the World Cup squad.
"We've been working on a lot of little things for more than five weeks and one thing is to have DeAndre in our group now for a reason. Not only because he's one of our biggest talents, a youngster coming through the ranks, but because he has the qualities to make an impact in a game right now in this World Cup, which he did," Klinsmann said. "So now a guy comes in that hasn't played yet and maybe in the next game against Germany he will make an impact; this is our hope. That's what our belief is – that every one of these 23 guys on this roster will make an impact on this World Cup hopefully. We knew with DeAndre's speed and with his defensive skills playing up in Seattle at right back, we have another weapon to push back the defense and create problems. I said before if the ref doesn't blow the final whistle so early maybe DeAndre goes down and maybe we score the third one. It's fun to watch that kid."