DeAndre Yedlin may have been a surprise inclusion in the USA’s World Cup squad but the 20-year-old proved in the side’ spirited 2-1 extra-time defeat to Belgium why he was taken to Brazil.
Replacing injured full-back Fabian Johnson in the 32nd minute of the last 16 matchup, Yedlin proceeded to reward Jurgen Klinsmann’s faith in him with an impactful performance on the right flank, dominating in attack for large chunks of the game.
Having previously shown bursts of promise in brief substitute appearances against Portugal and Germany, Tuesday’s contest was easily the youngster’s best showing of the tournament and even earned him praise from former England centre-back and BBC pundit Rio Ferdinand.
Yedlin is a little bullet, great to see a full back running forward & back with the same intensity— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) July 1, 2014
The USA certainly bowed out on the night valiantly and, in doing so, Yedlin became the latest unheralded gem to make his name known on the world’s biggest stage, following what’s been a roller-coaster 18 months for the MLS wonderkid.
After playing two years of college soccer at Akron University, the Washington-native signed a Homegrown contract with the Seattle Sounders in January 2013, before going on to enjoy a stellar rookie season, starting 30 games on the way to being named an MLS All-Star.
Earning his first senior call-up in January this year, Yedlin made his US debut in a 2-0 friendly win over South Korea on 1 February, while later earning his second cap in the 2-2 draw with Mexico in April.
Pegged by many to be a future national team star and sure-fire starter for 2018, the speedy right-back’s selection in Klinsmann’s provisional 30-man squad in May was mostly thought to be for experience purposes, with the 2014 tournament believed to have come just too soon for a prospect still so untested on the international level.
As a result, Yedlin’s name, as well as those of John Brooks and Julian Green, was widely met with shock and surprise at the time the final 23 was announced, leading many to claim that Klinsmann was building his side with an eye for 2018 rather than success now.
While the Sounders starlet’s undoubted potential was of course widely recognised, the overriding sentiment amongst fans and media alike was that his place would have been better filled by a seasoned veteran such as Brad Evans or Michael Parkhurst, who was likely to actually contribute on the pitch, rather than just being there to take in the sights and sounds.
As we know now, however, Klinsmann had much bigger plans for Yedlin than anyone anticipated, with 112 minutes of playing time far more than he was ever expected to accumulate this summer.
Quite predictably when any young sensation bursts onto the scene, his display against Belgium has already seen some speculating about his club future, including those from England, though the breaks should probably be pumped on that front for the moment.
For starters, a Premier League move is unlikely at this stage due to work permit issues, being an American with just seven caps to his name, while there are still some clear defensive frailties to be ironed out from his game before he is ready to make the jump to a more prestigious league.
Nevertheless, already inviting comparisons to his idol Dani Alves, it is clear from the past few weeks that Yedlin has a bright future ahead of him and, while he’s likely to remain in Seattle for the immediate future, a big European move is sure to come at some point down the road.