Tottenham loanee DeAndre Yedlin has a whole lot to prove at Sunderland

DeAndre Yedlin Jermaine Jones

The 22-year-old defender-cum-winger joined the Black Cats on deadline day on a season-long deal.

DeAndre Yedlin has been the darling of US Soccer for some time now, and with good reason.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a meteoric rise upon joining the Seattle Sounders in January 2013 as the club’s first-ever homegrown signing, having gone from the college level to a two-time MLS All-Star and World Cup veteran in the space of the next 18 months.

Three bright substitute outings in Brazil last summer, including during the spirited 2-1 round of 16 defeat to Belgium, saw the former Akron Zip hailed as the next big star of the US game and soon a host of European clubs were reported to be chasing his signature.

In the end, it was Tottenham Hotspur who managed to beat off interest from Serie A giants Roma to secure his services for £2.5 million last August, before the promising right-back remained with his hometown club for the rest of the 2014 MLS season to help guide them to their fourth US Open Cup and first Supporters’ Shield title.

Eventually making the move across the Atlantic at the start of the past January transfer window, there were high hopes for the US international upon his arrival in north London due to his rapid progress but, so far, fulfilling them has proved much harder than anticipated.

After earning just one 11-minute substitute appearance over the second half of last season, the 25-times capped youngster saw Kieran Trippier arrive at the club to compete with Kyle Walker for the starting right-back job this term and, as a result, failed to even make the bench for first four games of the campaign.

Fortunately, a season-long loan move to Sunderland materialised on deadline day but, if Black Cats fans are expecting him to make a big impact during his time at the Stadium of Light, then it might be wise for them to temper their expectations.

Never short of confidence, Yedlin’s breath-taking pace and acceleration sees him excel in the attack, which is no surprise considering he started out his college career as a forward, but he remains a massive work in progress when it comes to the defensive side of the game.

He was able to cover up some of those deficiencies against lesser competition in MLS but, even when playing for the Sounders, there were serious questions about his ability to both read the game and defend one-on-one.

His poor positioning was all too apparent at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the US finished in a disappointing fourth-place – their worst performance at the tournament since 2000, and there is a growing sense that the Seattle-native’s progress has stagnated over the past eight months with his lack of game time.

Now featuring solely on the wing for Jurgen Klinsmann's side, last Friday’s encouraging midfield start in the 2-1 win over Peru showed that it would be foolish to write him off at this point but, at the same time, the subsequent 4-1 defeat to Brazil also served to highlight all the poor traits that could prevent him from making his mark on the English top-flight.

An awful give-away led to Hulk’s ninth-minute opener in Tuesday night’s meeting, as the versatile speedster continued to show poor defensive awareness and decision-making throughout the course of the match at Gillette Stadium.

Stationed on the right flank, he did manage to offer up a few teasing balls into the box but, more often than not, the Spurs loanee ended up frustrating the home fans rather than exciting them.

Now heading back to England to begin his Sunderland spell, it remains to be seen whether manager Dick Advocaat intends to use him at either right-back or in midfield but, regardless, he will have a hard time making it into the starting XI if he does not show some substantial improvement over the coming weeks and months.

Using his speed off the bench late in games when the opposition is tiring might not be a bad idea to begin with but, for now, relying on him to be a key member of the line-up would be an extremely tough ask and one which could well end in disaster.

Ultimately, there is good reason to believe that Yedlin can eventually make the grade in the Premier League but, with just two-and-a-half seasons at the professional level under his belt, he still has a whole lot to do to prove that he is more than just an athlete - albeit a hugely talented one.

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