DeAndre Yedlin - Sunderland - Solo, close up
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USMNT's DeAndre Yedlin gaining valuable experience at struggling Sunderland

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Former Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin could have been enjoying the ride of chasing of a Premier League title with Tottenham Hotspur. Instead, the 22-year-old has been on loan since September with Sunderland, a team stuck in a relegation battle and currently a slot away from the drop zone in 17th position.

Yet Yedlin’s confidence is running high now that he’s been given more of opportunity to start for Sunderland. For the first nine months of 2015, he made just one brief substitute appearance for Tottenham. Since moving over to Sunderland, the US international has 13 starts in 15 league appearances for the Black Cats this season.

The Seattle native burst into MLS in 2013 when the Sounders made him the first Homegrown Player signing in club history. In his first season, he started at right back, led the team with 2,710 minutes, ranked second with 31 appearances and was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year. He would follow that with another strong season, playing 2,220 minutes over 25 appearances while also missing time with the US national team.

He said moving over to the Premier League after the 2014 season was the right step at that point in his career.

“I think that was one of the reasons I took that step over to Europe was to mature not just on the field but off the field as well,” Yedlin said during USMNT training at Barry University. “I think I've taken steps in doing that. I feel more mature. I have learned a lot from time in Europe, my time in Seattle and my time on the national team.”

His increased minutes helped contribute to Yedlin being added to the US national team roster by Jurgen Klinsmann for the team’s upcoming CONCACAF World Cup qualifying doubleheader against Guatemala on Friday (10 pm ET; beIN Sports, NBC Universo) and Tuesday (7 pm ET; ESPN2).

“Right now, he’s playing right back with Sunderland," Klinsmann said during a March 20 Facebook Q&A with fans, "and the most important thing really is just that he’s playing. It’s really important that he’s playing week in, week out, and we’re really happy that he’s doing a good job there."

Yedlin admitted his recent starting role has boosted his game.

“Obviously, the confidence is going up,” Yedlin said. “But you can’t be at point where you get too comfortable or too relaxed, especially over there. One mistake and you’re out of the lineup.”