TUKWILA, Wash. — Just three competitive matches into his professional career, DeAndre Yedlin has already faced several significant challenges.
He’s experienced playing in front a packed CenturyLink Field for the season opener and twice appeared against one of Mexico’s best teams, including once on the road.
Saturday will be an entirely different beast.
Not only is he expected to start against the Sounders’ biggest rivals, the Portland Timbers, but he'll be facing his old boss in the process (Saturday, 5 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). Portland are coached by Caleb Porter, who was Yedlin's college coach at Akron for two years.
“He kind of took me [in] like a son,” Yedlin said. “He really cared for me. I think it will be good for him to see me play.”
Porter admits to being impressed by what he has seen so far.
Yedlin was one of the few standout players for the Sounders in their season-opening loss to the Montreal Impact, making several impressive tackles, clearing a ball off the line and showing an impressive ability to join the attack from his right back position. The 19-year-old followed that up by helping the Sounders etch their place in history, scoring the opening goal in their 3-1 win over Tigres UANL that booked a ticket into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals before making a cross-field sprint to celebrate with the Seattle staff.
“I knew his talent — obviously I coached him for two years and he was one of the, I thought, top right backs in the country,” Porter said. “Very, very talented, athletic, and so yeah, I knew he would do well. I don’t know if I necessarily expected him to be doing quite as well as he’s doing. For a young player to step in and be starting and have the impact that he’s having I think is pretty impressive, and it says a lot about the talent that that young man has. It’s great to see for him and I’m happy that he’s off to a good start in his young career.”
Helping Yedlin deal with the emotions of facing a former coach is Sounders teammate Steve Zakuani, who also played under Porter at Akron. Zakuani seems to think Yedlin will handle it just fine.
“When you’re at that age, you’re fearless,” Zakuani said. “You play how you want to play. It’s like he’s playing with his friends or something. It’s good. I’m very happy for him."
And if Yedlin should score again, Zakuani does have a bit of sage advice.
“I already told him after the game that he needs to change his celebration. He can’t be running to Sigi after every goal.”