The United States national team may have exited the World Cup at the last 16 stage but their performances were such that there has probably never been as big an air of optimism about soccer’s future.
While the benefits to the growth of the game domestically have been discussed ad nauseam over the past week or two, we may now also begin to see some of the players rewarded for their performances.
Seattle Sounders full back DeAndre Yedlin looks to be first in the shop window with strong rumours linking him to Serie A giants A.S. Roma.
The English media had been reporting that Yedlin was the subject of interest from Premier League giants Liverpool, with a trial on the table. However, the player’s agent Chris Megaloudis dismissed that story via Twitter.
The Sounders are understandably coy on the transfer talk surrounding their player who has just returned from Brazil.
“DeAndre has had a very good season in Seattle and obviously had a fantastic World Cup. This has drawn lots of interest for him from leagues around the world,” said Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer in a statement.
“For now, DeAndre is in Seattle and we need him to help us win our upcoming games against Portland. If something transpires with a foreign team, we will announce it.”
A move to one of Europe’s big name clubs would cap a sensational 18 months of so for Yedlin, who turns 21 this week.
Known for his pace and ability to get forward from right back, as well as his eccentric hairstyles and fashion sense, Yedlin has caught the eye of many and by all accounts has the right attitude to go far in the game.
“On top of him being a great soccer player, he’s a great young man,” said Sounders under 23 manager Darren Sawatzky in 2013.
“He’s had some challenges in his life and he has risen to the occasion. He’s somebody I know I never have to worry about on or off the field.”
As a high school student, Yedlin competed in athletics (100m, 200m, 400m and long jump) before impressing at an under 18 camp in California that ultimately led to him being picked up by Akron University, who were incredibly successful under current Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter.
Yedlin joined the Sounders in 2013 as their first ever homegrown player having come through the club’s academy and went on to make 33 appearances in his debut season as he collected the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
This time twelve months ago there were plenty of eyebrows raised when Yedlin was chosen for the MLS All-Star game against, ironically, Roma.
League Commissioner Don Garber can select two players to be part of the All-Star squad and he used one of those on Yedlin for the game, making him the first rookie chosen since 2005.
Things got even better for Yedlin in February this year as he was given his international debut in the friendly against South Korea.
Initially a surprise inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the World Cup Brazil, Yedlin showed his adaptability by playing on the right side of midfield against Portugal and at right back in the last 16 defeat to Belgium, coming on as a substitute in both games.
While his performances were generally solid, there is still plenty to learn. With the US 2-1 up against Portugal as time ticked down, Yedlin picked up the ball on the wing and headed for the corner. However, instead of wasting time he chose to cross the ball into the box and moments later, having comfortably cleared their lines, Portugal equalised at the opposite end of the pitch.
It would be extremely harsh to place blame on Yedlin for the goal but his decision served as a timely reminder that there is still room for improvement.
The reported interest from Roma will offer Yedlin the opportunity to make some serious money relative to his existing deal with the league leading Sounders, and his current salary of $92,000 was by far the lowest of any member of the US World Cup squad.
With experience on the highest stage of all under his belt, Yedlin is now ready to try his hand at one of the game’s top leagues.