TUKWILA — At this time a year ago, DeAndre Yedlin was something of an unknown; a homegrown teenager with crazy hair, tons of speed and the potential to maybe, just maybe, make an impact with the Seattle Sounders during his rookie season.
Twelve months later, Yedlin begins his second season with a resume that includes an MLS All-Star game appearance, playing in the under-20 World Cup, and his first appearance with the U.S. senior national team.
Not bad for a guy who still can’t legally buy a drink.
When the 2013 season started, Yedlin was the starting right back, but figured to eventually give that job back to Adam Johansson once the Swedish defender returned from a knee injury. Only Yedlin played so well, the Sounders decided they could save some money by parting ways with Johansson.
By the end of the year, Yedlin led the team in games started (30 of 34) and minutes played with 2,710. And after an offseason of change, Yedlin has gone from unknown a year ago to one of the few Sounders locked into a starting job with the 2014 season set to kick off Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“It was definitely a whirlwind,” Yedlin said of his past year. “I wasn’t really expecting any of it. I wanted a lot of it, but I wasn’t expecting it. One thing just kind of came after another. I’ve learned throughout the years that if you stay humble, good things happen… That’s been important throughout my whole career. Just because I had one good year, I’m not going to suddenly become cocky and stop being humble.”
Part of staying humble for Yedlin, who grew up in Shoreline and attended Seattle’s O’Dea High School, means realizing he has plenty of room to grow despite all off the instant success.
“My goal is to just be better than I was last year,” Yedlin said. “There are a lot of things I need to improve on. A lot of people might look at that year and think, ‘Wow, he had a great year because of all of those accolades,’ but there’s always something I can improve on. So that’s what I’m looking to do; just fine tune my game even more than it was last year.”
Both Yedlin and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid agree that the 20-year old can grow in several areas. Both list his crossing skills, his awareness as a defender and ability to defend in one-on-one situations as places where Yedlin can improve.
Schmid and Yedlin’s teammates only see last year’s success as something that will motivate the youngster to improve, not a reason for him to become complacent.
“A lot happened for him in the last year, but he’s the type of player where that’s not enough,” said midfielder Brad Evans, who was also with the U.S. team when Yedlin got his first senior team call up. “He wants more, he wants to perform well. He’s gotten a taste of being an All-Star and being with the U.S. team, and that’s something that once you get that taste, you want more. You want to feed off of that.”
Schmid agrees, noting that Yedlin’s youth, his wild hair — which is much more subdued now, by the way — and his sometimes flashy outfits might overshadow the humble, hard-working player he is. And that as much as anything helped Yedlin stay on track as the attention and accolades continued to grow over the past year.
“DeAndre’s pretty solid,” Schmid said. “He’s got his feet on the ground. His grandparents did a great job raising him. He’s a pretty level-headed kid.”
While Yedlin has now established himself as a rising star in MLS, his future is in many way as uncertain as it was at this time last year. Despite the recent call-up, Yedlin is considered a long-shot to be a part of this year’s World Cup team, though that’s not entirely impossible with the U.S. team unsettled at right back. Moving forward though, he has a chance to become his country’s right back for years to come. Another strong season or two with the Sounders, as well as more international team duty also could lead to Yedlin not being long for Major League Soccer.
“He’s at that stage now where, in the next two years — hopefully we have him here in Seattle — but he could be playing in one of the top leagues in the world,” Evans said.
So yes, the future is bright for Yedlin, but for now, with the season opener approaching fast, his focus is only on the Sounders.
“Now my focus is on Seattle,” he said. “Whether or not (national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) wants me for the World Cup or the next friendly or anything, that really doesn’t matter to me right now. All that matters is that we get off to a good start this season.”
The Sounders have signed central midfielder Gonzalo Pineda, 31, a veteran of the Mexico national team and Mexico’s Liga MX, Seattle announced Wednesday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. Pineda has appeared in 244 matches with five Mexican clubs, scoring 10 goals and contributing 15 assists. Last season, he played with Queretaro of Liga MX. He has been training with the Sounders for about a month.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.