TEMPE, Ariz. – You can’t blame DeAndre Yedlin for dreaming, for believing a summer business trip to Brazil is more than just a fantasy.
As little as six months ago, conventional wisdom said the Seattle Sounders right back was better off circling 2018 on his calendar. No way was he pushing through a crowded stable that included club teammate Brad Evans, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Timmy Chandler and perhaps even Steve Cherundolo.
But then the dominos started to fall – Cherundolo retired, Chandler succumbed to injury and neither Evans nor Orozco made the trip for Wednesday’s friendly vs. Mexico (11 pm ET; ESPN/UniMas) due to injury and club commitments, respectfully.
And suddenly Yedlin’s dream seems less and less far-fetched.
“Right now I’m focused on this June. If I can make a big enough impression to go [to the World Cup], that’d be great,” Yedlin told reporters on Monday. “That would be an amazing opportunity for me. I also have to think about the future because that is ultimately is the more realistic World Cup for me to go to.”
Even with everything breaking his way, it would still be shocking if a 20-year-old with just 16 senior national team minutes to his name was on the plane next to Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley come June 8, but late arrivals turned World Cup participants aren’t completely unprecedented.
DaMarcus Beasley and Pablo Mastroeni were late additions in 2002. Herculez Gomez played himself onto the roster in 2010, playing 75 minutes in three substitute appearances before taking part in three games in South Africa.
In this very camp, 18-year-old Julian Green hasn’t played a minute for Jurgen Klinsmann, yet there’s reason to believe he has a legitimate shot at making the 23-man squad.
Given the opportunity to slam the door shut on Monday, Klinsmann refused to snuff out Yedlin and Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil's chances.
“Anything can happen in the next couple of months,” the US coach told reporters. “We observe them now week in and week out, and we’ll put the puzzle together, obviously what is best for us going into Brazil. We still have the camp coming up as well, which will be more than 23 players obviously to see a little bit more of them. Anything is possible in a short period of time in this sport.”
Anything may be possible, though the odds certainly aren’t favorable.
But even if neither Yedlin or Gil make the team for Brazil – the likely conclusion to the process, no matter what Klinsmann says – that doesn’t mean the next few days and the chance to take part in May’s pre-tournament camp would be in vain.
“It’s getting a bit tricky because we’re getting close to the World Cup, and we’ve got to kind of zoom in more and more on the 23 that we want to see be there,” Klinsmann said. “But it’s really important that we bring the next generation along. I wish I could bring in a Will Packwood or other kids. Both of them – Luis and DeAndre – have done well in the January camp.
“I think they’re coming along in their club teams. They still have a way to go, a lot to learn, and they know that. But every day with that senior group is a good day. They are like sponges and they want to move up the ladder.”
Yedlin, for his part, acknowledges he still has plenty to learn, especially when it comes to positioning and one-v-one defending. In January camp, Evans, who established himself as Klinsmann’s first-choice right back in qualifying, helped his young teammate acclimate to his new surroundings.
That comfort blanket is nowhere to be found in Arizona, but a clear opportunity for playing time has taken its place.
“It’s tough to see Brad not be here because he’s one of my good friends and a guy who I really like,” Yedlin said. “… But at the end of the day, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get, so hopefully I’ll take advantage of it. Hopefully it can work out for both of us.”