DeAndre Yedlin is in the midst of a very successful debut season with the Seattle Sounders Academy, and he is only weeks removed from signing his National Letter of Intent to the 2010 NCAA Division-I Champions, Akron Zips.
For any normal teenage boy, this would create an ego the size of Alaska. That is not the case for the 17-year-old right back - he is as humble as they come. Perhaps that is what makes him so endearing to his coaches.
“He is a real honest player,” Jon Spencer, U.S.F.C.’s SuperElite Technical Director, said about the defender. “Saying that, I mean he plays the game hard – no hold back on both sides of the ball.”
Yedlin spent last summer with Spencer in Europe prior to joining the Sounders Academy for MLS SUM Cup. As one of the youngest players on that European trip, Yedlin played well enough to earn an invitation back for this summer’s tour.
While the Seattle native’s professional soccer ambitions are obvious (and the European tour is good exposure for that), the path is going to go through Ohio first.
“First Akron then Seattle,” Yedlin told Goal.com with a laugh on Saturday about the prospect of playing at Qwest Field someday.
The Akron opportunity could perhaps be considered a case of serendipity. He first drew the eye of Akron head coach Caleb Porter when Porter was an assistant coach during a U.S. U18 camp.
Coincidentally, that camp was also the first time Yedlin played right back. Prior to the change, Yedlin had played center midfield. The switch worked out well as Porter recruited the Sounders Academy star as the replacement for Houston Dynamo first round pick, Kofi Sarkodie.
“[Porter] said ‘We are excited for you to come in at right back,” Yedlin said regarding the text message the coach sent him. “Just keep working on your defending one-v-one and attacking one-v-one.”
The comparisons to Sarkodie are evident as Yedlin has the same mindset to constantly get forward and join the attack. They are big shoes to fill, but he has the experience to step in right away.
Coming from Crossfire Premier Academy to Seattle Sounders Academy, the defender has had plenty of experience in the Development Academy.
“[The Sounders Academy practice] is a lot more organized,” the future Zip said about the comparison between the two academies. “The practice is more tactical. The Sounders Academy practice is working on the basics but a lot higher level.”
With the transfer to the Sounders Academy comes the opportunity to train with the first team, a chance Yedlin will have for the first time in the coming weeks.
Sounders Academy takes a break from their Development Academy games until May, the team will only meet once a week to train while most of the players participate in high school soccer.
Yedlin is one of those who will play high school soccer, but he is doing it so he can get time off school to train during the day with the Sounders full team.
“I wanted to practice with Sounders [first team] but my high school [O’Dea] is very sports oriented,” the defender explained about the situation requiring him to play high school soccer. “So I had to give my high school something so I could train with the first team.”
Yedlin will be joined by a few of his Academy teammates in the first team practices over the next few months. The U18s also have a friendly scheduled with the Vancouver Whitecaps as part of the Cascadia Cup in March. Another opportunity for the developing stars to play in front of the lively home crowd.
“It is amazing,” he said with a smile when asked about playing in front of the Sounders supporters. “They are loud the whole game.”
The infectious smile and down-to-Earth personality will likely make Yedlin a crowd favorite at Akron in the coming years. He can thank his grandfather, Ira, and step-grandmother, Vicki Walton for that, as the two raised him. Now, the two are regular fixtures on Sounders Academy sidelines, Ira has only missed two games all season.
His grandparents exude pride when they speak about him and his successes, but they never sound arrogant. Ira casually mentioned Yedlin had also received offers from Louisville and Virginia as well as interest from Wake Forest. It is the same modesty that Yedlin has when speaking about his own triumphs.
“That is who he is. That is DeAndre, ” Vicki quickly replied when I mentioned Yedlin was very humble and honest during our interview.
And that is why the future is bright for the Sounders Academy star.
J.R. Eskilson is the Youth Soccer Editor at Goal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccer
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