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Seattle Sounders' DeAndre Yedlin still searching for right balance between attacking, defending

TUKWILA, Wash. – It would probably be a little harsh to call what DeAndre Yedlin is going through a “sophomore slump.”

His Seattle Sounders teammates and the coaching staff both seem to be satisfied with how the second-year player is performing, but the 21-year-old right back is willing to admit some struggles.

Over the past three weeks, in particular, the opposition seems intent on attacking down Yedlin’s side and has seen a fair amount of success. Yedlin was also responsible for conceding a penalty against FC Dallas, and Osvaldo Alonso has often been forced to cover while he marauds forward.

“There’s times when I go that I shouldn’t be going, but there are times when I don’t go when I should,” Yedlin said. “It’s finding that balance and something that I’m working on. It’s tough when the lineup switches because there’s different players who play different ways, but that’s something I need to learn and something that I’m still trying to get ahold of.”

At various times, the Sounders have played a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2, with Brad Evans, Marco Pappa, Kenny Cooper and Lamar Neagle all playing on the right side ahead of Yedlin.

Yedlin has been tasked with providing offensive width when players like Neagle and Pappa are in, and he’s been more inclined to tuck inside when Cooper is on the pitch.

All the while, Yedlin is being told to be mindful of his defensive responsibilities. It’s a lot to ask of any player, but especially one who has played fewer than 50 professional matches.

“I think the coaches will sit down with him and that should be something that is ingrained in his head,” said Evans, who might be Yedlin’s ideal pairing but has been limited due to injury. “He has all the tools and now it’s just picking and choosing the moments to go forward so we don’t get ourselves countered on.”

To some degree, this is an inevitable part of Yedlin’s growth. The skill that has proven most attractive to the likes of US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann is his ability to get up and down the sideline effectively.

Evans pointed out that tethering Yedlin to the defensive half would be wasting a weapon few teams possess. Yedlin just needs to learn when to deploy.

“Because you have the freedom doesn’t mean I can get forward every single time we get the ball,” he said. “I’d like to, but you just can’t because you can’t take that kind of risk. It is a new challenge.

“The only way to get better is to push the boundaries. I’m learning every day and trying to learn every day and even in the games I’m trying to learn.”