The scene was not unlike many others at Starfire during the offseason, but Sounders FC Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer saw a different enthusiasm in Sporting Director Chris Henderson on that day on January 11, 2013. Seattle had just inked a contract with the club’s first ever Homegrown Player, signing Academy product DeAndre Yedlin before the 2013 season.
To Henderson, Seattle had just signed a player that he believed would have been a top-three selection in the draft. His pure athletic ability was enough to draw praise, but his soccer instincts improved each year in his development from the Sounders FC Academy and in two seasons at Akron. Hanauer saw it, too, but Henderson’s proclamation made him raise an eyebrow.
Henderson was quickly proven right when Yedlin beat out Sweden National Team right back Adam Johansson for the starting job in training camp.
“I knew DeAndre would be good, but I didn’t know he would be that good and I certainly didn’t know that he would be this good this fast,” Hanauer said on a conference call with reporters last week. “He came in that preseason and really won the spot from Adam Johansson.”
From there, his legend took off, and people began to take notice.
After a strong start to the 2013 season that included the 19-year-old rookie scoring a pivotal goal as Sounders FC topped Tigres in the quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League, Yedlin was called in to the U.S. U-20 National Team to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. There, he started all three matches under Tab Ramos and continued to climb the international ladder.
During that first season, he earned a spot on the MLS All-Star team and was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year after he led the Sounders with 30 starts and 2,710 minutes.
In January, his career took another giant leap forward when he was called in to U.S. National Team camp. At the end of the camp, he made his international debut in a 2-0 win over Korea Republic. Three more appearances would follow before he found himself included on Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
There, he made a pair of substitute appearances late in matches against Portugal and Germany in the Group Stage, but was thrust into the limelight when Fabian Johnson suffered a first-half injury in the Round of 16 against Belgium. Yedlin grabbed hold of the opportunity and acquitted himself well against Belgium sensation Eden Hazard.
Soon, Hanauer was fielding phone calls from top clubs around the world. On Wednesday, a deal was finalized to send Yedlin to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, putting an exclamation point on the Seattleite’s rise to stardom.
“Ultimately, all the credit has to go to DeAndre. He’s been humble and honest and hard-working and a great teammate and dedicated to improving day in and day out on the field,” Hanauer said. “There have been a lot of people that have touched his soccer development and development as a human being and they’ve all done a masterful job. But ultimately, the kid – DeAndre – is responsible for most of it.”
Yedlin will remain with Sounders FC for the remainder of the season, keeping intact the club’s goals and his goals of winning an MLS Cup title in Seattle.