DeAndre Yedlin had proven just about all he could as an amateur.
In two years at Akron, the 19-year-old was twice named to the All-Mid American Conference first team, made first-team All-PDL last summer while he was with the Sounders U-23s and generally established himself as one of the top attacking fullbacks in the country.
“There were games [in the PDL], in all honesty, where he was bored,” Seattle Sounders director of youth development and U-23 head coach Darren Sawatzky told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “It wasn’t because we weren’t playing against good teams, it’s just that he’s ready for the next challenge.”
That’s why the Sounders made Yedlin the first Homegrown Player in club history on Friday.
Yedlin is already well versed in Sounders culture, having played for the club’s academy from the very beginning and attending numerous MLS matches.
“It’s amazing to start my professional career in a place where I started playing soccer in the first place,” said Yedlin, who attended high school just a few minutes from CenturyLink Field. “I think that’s the main thing for me. That’s why I think I’m so excited – just to be able to perform in front of all the fans. It’s the best place to play in the United States – one of the best in the world, I think. It’s very exciting for me.”
Until Friday, Seattle were one of two MLS clubs never to have signed a Homegrown player. The club’s philosophy was that it was better to let players continue their development in college, rather than sitting on the bench in MLS.
But Yedlin broke the mold in terms of that criteria. SuperDraft experts have identified him as a surefire first-round pick he had been eligible.
“The jump from club soccer to college is big and the jump from college to the pros is even bigger,” Sawatzky said. “He’s going to have to get faster mentally and adapt to the speed of the game and that takes a little time. But I don’t think he’d get signed unless he was ready to start competing.”
While it seems unlikely that Yedlin will be able to secure a starting spot at such a young age, he promises to be a solid attacking force once he does. He had 12 assists in two years at Akron, with half of those coming last fall.
“He’s a modern, prototypical outside back,” Sawatzky told MLSsoccer.com. “He can play outside mid, also. He’s done better and better as a one-v-one defender. He’s a smart player. He has an engine for days and he can get forward and take guys on.”