SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders may not have gotten the result they needed, or that most expected, in their season opener, a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact, but there was a least one Sounder who looked perfectly comfortable under the bright lights, and it probably wasn’t the one Sounders fans expected.
Making his MLS debut – starting in place of the injured Adam Johansson – after inking a Homegrown contract in the offseason, 19-year-old right back DeAndre Yedlin stood out not only for his big as life blonde mohawk, but his sizzling play from the right back spot.
WATCH: DeAndre Yedlin robs Marco Di Vaio
“[He was] absolutely fantastic,” raved Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “He played very calm, won fights, played good passes, had a couple of situations where he went to the offense and made the crosses. For a 19-year-old, a great game from him.”
Yedlin showed, among other things, a strong positional sense and a good ability to get up and down the right side, contributing on defense, putting in his fair share of crosses and even narrowly missing on a diving header attempt on goal early in the second half that could have changed the tone of the game.
“I thought he played well,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid reflected in his postgame press conference. “For a young man making his debut at home there could have been a lot of pressure, he could have not handled that well, but I thought he handled it well. He played well and he had a good game.”
Though his strong overall play earned some deserved plaudits, the youngster truly made his mark on with two highlight-reel moments in the second half. The first came as the ball caromed around the Seattle box, and with Gspurning off his line, looked to be headed into the net, only for Yedlin to step in and head clear just in front of the line.
As if that wasn’t enough, not long after he made a play that showed off both his pace and poise beyond his years, catching up with Marco Di Vaio as he attempted to cut in from the left at the edge of the box and connecting with a crunching, but clean tackle to end the threat.
Was there any big secret to his calm demeanor on such a huge occasion?
“Just to try to relax. Steve Zakuani told me to play simple, build your confidence and go from there,” Yedlin told reporters after the game.
“It was good [to get my debut],” he added. “Obviously a loss is never the result you want, but it’s good to get a game under my belt and see what it’s like to play with the first team and get to start. It was definitely good for my experience.”
And is all this the start of something bigger and better?
“Of course,” Gspurning said. “If he stays focus edand if he continues to do the work he is putting in every day, he will have a great career.”