By John Boyle
DeAndre Yedlin, the Seattle native who became a breakout star with his play at the 2014 World Cup, is back with the Sounders, but the question now is for how long.
Yedlin, 20, turned heads with his play for the U.S. national team, particularly when he came in as a first-half sub against Belgium, and plenty of teams around the world took notice of the speedy right back. According to multiple reports, AS Roma is finalizing a transfer to bring Yedlin to Italy.
“I’m letting my representatives take care of that right now, and they’ll obviously get back to me with that information, but right now I’m just focused on Seattle, focused on hopefully winning the MLS Cup, and just looking to come back and do well,” Yedlin said following Monday’s practice.
Asked if it has always been his goal to play in Europe, Yedlin said, “Yeah, but I mean the MLS is such a growing league. The MLS is really getting up there and it’s becoming one of the top leagues in the world, so obviously that shifts a little bit as the MLS gets better and better.”
Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer was not available for comment Monday, but issued the follow statement through a team spokesman: “DeAndre has had a very good season in Seattle and obviously had a fantastic World Cup. This has drawn lots of interest for him from leagues around the world. For now, DeAndre is in Seattle and we need him to help us win our upcoming games against Portland. If something transpires with a foreign team, we will announce it.”
While the Sounders would certainly love to keep Yedlin, it also speaks well for the club and its academy program if a homegrown player ends up in one of Europe’s top leagues as a 21-year-old.
“When you look at it, he’s a guy who’s about to turn 21, and how many 21-year-old right backs have three World Cup games under their belt?” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s a very exclusive market, so it’s something that we’re proud of, it’s something that our academy should be proud of — the guys who worked the academy over the years … all those guys who have been involved over the years with him have a lot to be proud of, because it’s a process, it’s not something that happens over night.”
Schmid also noted that Yedlin’s departure, assuming it happens at some point, would bring financial benefits to the club and to Major League Soccer, and he believes that doing what’s best for the player is good for the club in the long run.
“It is better for the league (if Yedlin stays), but on the same token, why does Pau Gasol play in the NBA, why does (Manu) Ginobili play in the NBA? Because the league is better than their leagues in their home countries,” Schmid said. “There are going to be certain players where the right thing to do is to go overseas, because they can deal with that opportunity. Players have done it in the past. Clint Dempsey has done it and Michael Bradley has done it, and now they’ve come back, and at some point he’ll come back as well. It just means the opening he creates means somebody else will be able to take advantage of an opportunity. You have to do what’s right for the player, and the player is always trying to play at the highest level he can play at.”
And you can read into it what you want that Schmid is already talking as if Yedlin is leaving.
There was always a good chance Yedlin would leave MLS at some point thanks to his world-class speed; his star turn at the World Cup only served to speed up the process. Watching Yedlin excel against Belgium, Schmid admitted he might have had a thought cross his mind that Yedlin might be harder to keep in Seattle than he was before the game.
“The thought sort of briefly went through my mind,” Schmid said.