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DeAndre Yedlin Eager for Chance Against Mexico

Due to last-minute personnel changes, Yedlin, a 20-year-old right back with the Seattle Sounders, could be in the starting lineup against Mexico on Wednesday. He welcomes the challenge.

BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 01, 2014
9:57 AM
PHOENIX—Forty-eight hours ago DeAndre Yedlin was likely headed for the bench. The talented young prospect was brought into U.S. training camp for Wednesday's match against Mexico (11 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMas), but he appeared to be fairly low on the depth chart.

But then right back Brad Evans had to leave the squad due to a balky calf. And then Liga MX club Puebla refused to release left back DaMarcus Beasley for the contest. The personnel changes left U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann with a dilemma and now provide Yedlin with an enormous opportunity: The 20-year-old Seattle native could be the starter at right back against Mexico in what is the final friendly before the opening of World Cup camp in May.

“I still have to prove myself out here before I even get an opportunity to start,” Yedlin said on Monday. “That’s really what I’m focused on right now. If that opportunity comes, of course it’d be an amazing opportunity.”

“I’m definitely up for the challenge and I’m looking forward to it."

Klinsmann first called in Yedlin for the annual month-long camp this past January. The Seattle Sounder earned the invitation after impressing during his rookie 2013 season, during which he established himself as one of the league’s top young players. Yedlin performed well at the camp and managed to make the gameday roster for the February 1st matchup against South Korea in Los Angeles.

With the United States up 2-0 in the second half, Klinsmann subbed Yedlin into the game. While the youngster struggled in the early going, he gradually settled into the match and made a solid showing. Looking back, he is adamant that the camp and the game helped him get his feet wet for international soccer and that he is ready for a much-bigger challenge against Mexico.

“I felt good but I think I got off to a little bit of a slow start–a little bit overwhelming. But once things settled down I kind of got comfortable and did a little bit better,” Yedlin recalled. “It helped that I was around Luis [Gil] a bit and Shane [O’Neill] and Chris [Klute], the younger guys.”

Klinsmann views Yedlin as one of the players who could be an important part of the team’s future. Since Klinsmann is signed through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he cannot help but have one eye on the future, and he has shown a willingness to give younger players opportunities. In addition to Yedlin, Real Salt Lake standout Luis Gil and Bayern Munich prospect Julian Green are also in camp with the U.S. and are eligible for the U-23 team that will aim to compete in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Olympics.

Yedlin and Gil are both top MLS players and are coming on the heels of participating in last year’s U-20 World Cup. Now in their second camp, Klinsmann is pleased with their progression and hopes it bodes well for the future.

“I think both are coming along very well and we wish to have even more of this generation coming in now,” Klinsmann said. “Now it’s getting a bit tricky because we’re getting closer to the World Cup and we kind of zoom in and focus more on the 23 we want to see there. But it’s really important we bring the next generation along and I could bring in a Will Packwood or other kids as well."

"Both of them, Luis and DeAndre, have done well in January camp," Klinsmann continued. "I think they’re coming along in their club teams. They still have a way to go and a lot to learn and they know that but I think for them, every day with that senior group is a good day. They are like sponges and they want to move up the ladder.”

While there is a lot of attention paid to the fact that veterans Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey are all reunited on the national team for the first time in nearly two years, the Mexico game may offer a glimpse at the next core: Yedlin, Green, and Gil.

“It’s always great to bring young guys in and get them started with the process just like Jurgen has done for me and Luis,” Yedlin said. “From what I’ve heard, Julian is a great player. I haven’t seen him play yet but he’s with Bayern Munich so he can’t be a bad player [laughs]. I’m excited to see him play and I think he can be a huge guy for us in the future.”

A fullback who likes to make aggressive offensive runs up the field, Yedlin earned Man of the Match honors in Seattle's season opener and is off to a strong start. His defense is showing signs of improvement too, something Yedlin credits to both his better understanding of the game and the team’s acquisition of a veteran MLS defender.

“I still thing that there’s a lot I need to improve on defensively but positioning has definitely gotten a little bit better,” Yedlin said. “I think that one of the things that also has helped is Chad Marshall being able to step in and cover for me when I go forward. He gives me time to get back and be able to make the runs that I am able to make. That’s also been huge for me. He talks a lot with me which is also great [and] something I didn’t get all the time last year.”

Though he would have to pass several more experienced players in order to make the 2014 World Cup team, Yedlin isn't shy about his ambitions.

“Right now I’m focused on this June,” Yedlin said. “If I can make a big enough impression to go, that’d be great. That’d be an amazing opportunity for me. But obviously I also have to think about [2018] because that ultimately is the more realistic World Cup for me to go to.”

For now, Yedlin has a terrific opportunity to impress his coach and teammates. And Klinsmann isn't closing the door on any of his players.

“Anything can happen in the next couple of months,” Klinsmann said. “We observe them now week in and week out. We put the puzzle together obviously what is best for us going into Brazil. We still have the camp coming up as well which will be more than 23 players obviously to see a little bit more of them."

"Anything is possible in a short period of time in this sport.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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