DeAndre Yedlin is "almost a DP signing" in MLS return with Inter Miami CF

DeAndre Yedlin pose Miami

It's been nearly a decade since DeAndre Yedlin burst onto the MLS scene as a homegrown fullback for Seattle Sounders FC.

Naturally, plenty has happened since his debut in 2013. Yedlin parlayed his standout form with Seattle and breakout showing with the US men's national team at the 2014 World Cup into a transfer to England's Tottenham Hotspur, where he made one first-team appearance before stints with Sunderland, Newcastle United and Turkish side Galatasaray. He experienced varying degrees of success during his time in Europe while remaining a mainstay with the USMNT, where he's garnered 71 senior caps.

Now 28, Yedlin is back in the league where it all started, with Inter Miami announcing his signing on Feb. 2. Asked about the factors that produced his move to Miami, Yedlin said it was a decision that came down to more than just soccer.

"There's a lot of reasons for me coming here: I think some things that people don't realize when you're a professional footballer, football is a big part of your life but it's not your whole life," Yedlin said at his introductory press conference on Thursday. "I have a daughter. She was born in September, so really for the first time in my life I'm having to make a decision not just for me but for family.

"For me it was huge to be able to come back, be closer to family, my girlfriend has tons of family in West Palm Beach area, so she's incredibly happy to be here. I'm incredibly happy to be here. I've vacationed a lot in Miami, so I love the area. I love the people down here, I love the vibe, I love the atmosphere. So when I was presented with the opportunity to come here and play the sport that I love, it was really a no-brainer."

In Miami, Yedlin joins a club that entered MLS with lofty aspirations that haven't fully translated to on-field success. After missing the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs during their first year under head coach Phil Neville, the club's undergone a roster makeover this offseason.

Chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson, who worked with Yedlin in Seattle, has made the right back a marquee acquisition. They grabbed him with the No. 1 spot in the MLS Allocation Order, another key backline addition after Jamaican international Damion Lowe arrived.

It's all with the goal of becoming an Eastern Conference contender as quickly as possible, something that Yedlin believes is attainable with the pieces the club now has in place.

"I signed for four years here. I think in the moment I'm obviously thinking about now," Yedlin said, referencing his deal running through 2025 with a club option for 2026. "We want to win this year, we want to win every game, that's the goal, and if it's not then I think you're in the wrong sport. Obviously there's going to be ups and downs – there has been throughout my whole career, so I know the ups and downs that come with it.

"But I think at this point we're focused on now, I'm focused on now. I want to win, I want to win with this group of players. There's a reason this group of players are here and if they weren't good enough they wouldn't be here. So I'm confident in everybody that's here and from what I'm seeing in training the first couple days we're going to have a good team. We have a young, hungry team, we have a group of also experienced guys that can help lead those guys. So I'm excited to see what we do this year."

Neville echoed the notion that Yedlin's on-field prowess is only part of the equation, with the expectation being that he'll provide veteran leadership and a steadying presence in a young Inter Miami locker room.

"I think it's almost a DP signing for us, really, in terms of his quality," Neville said. "He's played at the top, top level in the top soccer nations in the world. So we hope his experience, his quality, his leadership, and the fact that he's American I think is really important. We have a young, new team and we want experience in there as well. He's part of a group of senior players that we expect and will ask a lot of things of in terms of passing on experiences and setting the standard and being the leaders within that dressing room."

Yedlin also spoke about his development during his time overseas, citing his defending as the main attribute he's worked to refine.

While he remains a threat as an attacking fullback, Yedlin returns to MLS a more complete player on the defensive side of the ball. That could prove significant for an Inter Miami defense that struggled last season, conceding 53 goals in 34 games.

"I know when I was in MLS, [defending] was a weakness in my game," Yedlin said. "Not only 1-v-1 but positionally. But now I'm coming back, being in a lot of different situations and a lot of different formations, playing different positions to a point now where I'm a lot more comfortable in those situations. I think I'm a lot better defender now than I was when I left."