In his first 18 months as a professional soccer player, barely a statement went by about DeAndre Yedlin without some mention of his various outlandish and creative hairstyles. Even while earning a spot on the 2013 MLS All-Star Team and finishing as a finalist in the MLS Rookie of the Year balloting, any analysis of his play on the field was buttressed with commentary about his ‘do.
While making daring runs up the right side and fearlessly defending against some of the top players in the world at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the 20-year-old Sounders FC defender changed the conversation. Nobody is talking about his hairstyle anymore – it’s all about the way he represented himself on the world’s biggest stage.
“Brilliant,” U.S. National Team and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard told USsoccer.com. “Pleasantly surprised with DeAndre. He’s got a bright future. He’s fearless. He gets forward, he’s strong, he’s fast. It’s not a cakewalk and I thought he handled it really, really well. As the team got tired, we opened up, but you talk about one-on-one, he won those battles.”
The players he faced in his three appearances against Portugal, Germany and Belgium reads like a who’s who of attacking European talent. Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Eden Hazard, just to name a few, all challenged the Sounders FC Academy alum. Yedlin didn’t disappoint in holding his own against those stars.
“I’m proud of him. I’m excited for him. I’m excited that he plays on our team because he has tools that other guys don’t,” said U.S. and Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler. “When he ran down Hazard on the sideline – you don’t see Hazard get outrun like that, and he blew by him which was so impressive. The composure that he had, the fight that he had; I think all of us can be very excited about the potential that he has.”
Yedlin finished the tournament with 112 minutes, including 88 minutes in the Round of 16 match against Belgium.
U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann included Yedlin in the team because he was confident that he could make a difference along the way. The O’Dea High School grad was thrust into the spotlight earlier than planned against Belgium when Fabian Johnson suffered a hamstring injury, and while Klinsmann had faith in him, even he was surprised at what Yedlin was able to do against such seasoned opponents.
“The way the kid played tonight and previous occasions there was just no fear at all and doing very, very well,” Klinsmann said. “It is a completely different level that we experienced here. A lot of players are not used to going every four days on the highest level and then extra time. That's what we prepared them for and I think they did themselves proud.”
To many in U.S. camp and around the world, the last two weeks offered a first glimpse into one aspect of the future of the U.S. National Team.
However, U.S. captain Clint Dempsey sees Yedlin every day with Sounders FC and was impressed with the progression he made while with the World Cup squad, reaching a crescendo in the Round of 16 match.
“He’s a player that has a bright future. He’s really athletic, has great pace, is able to get into those dangerous spots. We were just a little bit unlucky not to get on the end of one of those crosses. I think that would have been nice,” Dempsey said. “I thought he played well this World Cup and he has a bright future.”
Dempsey and Yedlin will soon return to Seattle, where they will rejoin a Sounders FC squad that sits first in the Supporters’ Shield race with a 10-point cushion on second place.