While the debate over DeAndre Yedlin’s best position continues to rumble on, USA teammate Geoff Cameron has told ESPN FC that he believes the Tottenham Hotspur man has the defensive nous to establish himself at right-back in Jurgen Klinsmann's side.
Yedlin has spent his entire club career at right-back since joining the Seattle Sounders as the team's first homegrown player in January 2013, but the 22-year-old speedster has made most of his 28 appearances for the US in midfield.
Originally a winger during his early days at the University of Akron, the two-time MLS All Star has become renowned for his attacking skills thanks to his pace and acceleration, but at the same time he has often been criticised for his lack of defensive awareness.
Those issues have led some to argue that he would be better off making a full-time move to midfield, and his performance in the USA’s opening World Cup qualifier against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday night showed precisely why the debate persists.
With Fabian Johnson moved to the left wing, the Spurs prospect was making rare start at right-back for Klinsmann’s side in St. Louis, Missouri, but his weakness at the back was exposed within the first five minutes of the convincing 6-1 win.
The Seattle native's poor positioning left Oalex Anderson free to dribble into the box and fire past Brad Guzan to give the CONCACAF minnows a shock lead, and while he made amends just six minutes later when he set up Bobby Wood’s headed equaliser with a fine cross, his manager openly admitted after the match that he “didn’t look good” on the opener.
Nevertheless, Cameron, who lined up next to Yedlin at Busch Stadium, does not think that too much should be made of his fellow defender’s goal-gifting error and has backed him to rebound on Tuesday night when they continue their qualifying campaign against Trinidad and Tobago.
The Stoke City centre-back has been impressed by his compatriot’s displays on loan at Sunderland this season and, having played at right-back himself with the Houston Dynamo, the Potters and the US in the past, believes that he has the defensive skills to cope against less forgiving foe.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s game in Port of Spain, the 30-year-old stopper told ESPN FC: "For him [Yedlin], first your job is to defend, keep the back four tight and get the ball to your outside mid as quickly as possible.
"This may be DeAndre's first experience going through the qualifiers, but he has all the physical attributes and he's getting good experience in England. He can use that."
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Yedlin made just one 11-minute substitute appearance for Tottenham during his first eight months in England, but he has been seeing a lot more playing time since joining Sunderland on deadline day on a season-long loan.
The speedy American, who originally moved to Spurs from Seattle in January, has started the Black Cats’ past five Premier League games, and aside from one or two hiccups, he has looked like a more than capable top-flight full-back.
With both Kyle Walker and summer signing Kieran Trippier currently ahead of him in the pecking order back at White Hart Lane, it remains to be seen what the future holds for him under Mauricio Pochettino, but he is understandably more focused on helping Sam Allardyce’s side escape the drop zone at the moment.
“Personally, I feel that I'm doing well, but now the goal is to try to help the team start getting results,” he told MLSsoccer.com last week. “That's the most important thing, try to help the team stay up. That's going to be the focus for the rest of the year.”
It is still early days, of course, but Yedlin's start to life at Sunderland has certainly been promising, and if he can keep his place in the side at right-back, then it will be hard for Klinsmann to move him back to the wing.