In the 72nd minute of the U.S. National Team’s 2-2 draw with Portugal in the second Group Stage match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, fans around Seattle were filled with local pride. One of their own – an O’Dea High School product and Sounders FC star – was about to make his World Cup debut.
Yet when DeAndre Yedlin entered the match for Alejandro Bedoya and Seattle held its collective breath in anticipation of how he would perform on the world’s stage, the 20-year-old was calm and collected.
“I was actually surprisingly not too nervous. I thought I was going to be way more nervous. I came in and felt comfortable. I credit a lot of that to my teammates making me feel comfortable on the field,” Yedlin said on a conference call with Seattle media on Monday. “As a team we’ve grown so much in the last month and a half and it’s definitely showing with our games.”
Playing with World Cup veterans in Seattle, including World Cup teammate Clint Dempsey, has eased Yedlin’s transition into the U.S. team in such a short time after making his international debut in February.
Now with two World Cup appearances under his belt, Yedlin has shown exactly why U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had the confidence to include the young right back on the roster.
In both of his substitute appearances, he has been a difference-maker on the offensive side with his runs up the right side and crosses from the endline, his speed adding a new dynamic to the U.S. each time he steps on the field. It hasn’t even phased Yedlin that those two appearances have come as a midfielder, and not the role as a defender that earned him an appearance in the 2013 MLS All-Star Game and a finalist for 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year.
“My role is to come in and create stuff, which is what I love to do. It’s a lot of fun. Playing with a guy like Fabian (Johnson) behind me is great. I’m learning a lot from him,” Yedlin said. “It’s been pretty amazing to get on the field and play a position that I really haven’t played in the last four years. But it’s similar to how I play right back with the Sounders.”
Although he has been entrenched in the World Cup team in Sao Paulo, he has spent time with his family there and has hardly been shielded from all of the support he has gotten from his hometown. Through social media, he has seen the reactions to his first appearance and gotten words of support from his Sounders FC teammates as well as fans and friends.
“It’s been pretty amazing to see how much passion Seattle has in supporting not only me and Clint, but this whole team,” Yedlin said. “This experience has been amazing. I think it’s one of the things that every soccer player dreams of. To be here now at a young age and to be able to compete with some of the best players in the world is a dream come true.”
Yedlin and the U.S. take on Belgium on Tuesday at 1 pm PT in the Round of 16 match in Salvador, Brazil. Sounders FC is hosting a viewing party for the match, which opens at 11 am PT, at the CenturyLink Field Events Center.