Tacoma, WA – DeAndre Yedlin is a speedy, athletic, right back that is easily recognized for his exceptional skill going forward in the attack as well as his eccentric hair. While his hairstyle and play on the pitch is rather flashy, his demeanor off the pitch could not be more different; he is a humble, down-to-earth kid with an irresistible smile and easy going nature.
Yedlin was raised by his grandparents, Ira Yedlin and Vicki Walton. DeAndre's mother was a young woman when DeAndre was born and not quite ready to take on the task of raising a son on her own. While Ira and Vicki raised DeAndre, he has always kept in close contact with his mother, visited her regularly, and today they enjoy a close relationship.
Despite having a somewhat unconventional upbringing, DeAndre has always made a strong impression and shown character.
“On top of him being a great soccer player, he's a great young man,” said Darren Sawatzky, Sounders U-23 manager. “He's had some challenges in his life and he has risen to the occasion. He's somebody I know I never have to worry about on or off the field."
DeAndre’s grandparents, Ira and Vicki, have been tremendous supporters throughout their grandson’s career. They are fixtures at most of DeAndre's games.
“My grandparents have been big supporters in my life, without them paying for all the soccer growing up I don't know I would be where I am today,” said Yedlin. “My uncle has definitely been big in my life; he's kind of been my father figure. He played (soccer) when he was younger and he's definitely taught me a lot. He's always asking me questions about how I'm doing and he's always there to help me if I need help. He's probably the biggest motivator to get me to where I am today.”
Yedlin began playing soccer at age four, when his grandmother signed him up for a youth soccer team that she saw advertised while driving around one day. At age five, DeAndre was on the sidelines of his uncle's games, kicking the ball around, watching and learning the game. His talent and skill developed fast and within a few years time, top coaches were taking notice.
“I first saw DeAndre play when he was eleven or twelve. He had this big afro and was really noticeable when he was running around,” said Darren Sawatzky. “He was an offensive player at the time, he was tricky, he had explosiveness and he could run for days. You knew there was something there and over time he has fallen in love with the game.”
It was around this time that Yedlin was invited to the U-12 national team camp and the dream of becoming a professional soccer player really took hold.
“I went to national camp and that was probably the time where I was like alright, this is what I want to do with my life,” Yedlin said.
Yedlin's youth career spans several clubs teams; he played two years for Emerald City FC, two years with Northwest Nationals, two years with Crossfire, and his final year with Seattle Sounders FC Academy.
DeAndre Yedlin sprints with the ball (photos by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com)
As a high school freshman, Yedlin ran the 100, 200, and 400 meter dash for his track team. He also competed in the long jump while still playing high school soccer his sophomore, junior and senior years.
Yedlin went several years without being called back into the national team camps, until he was invited to a U-18 camp in California. It was this camp that changed the trajectory of his career.
University of Akron head coach, Caleb Porter was working as an assistant coach for the U-18 team at the time and liked what he saw in Yedlin.
“I remember him catching my eye and thinking he would be a very good outside back in our system,” said Porter. “I thought he could replace Kofie Sarkodie who was a big time player for us a big part of us winning a national championship. When we lost him there was a huge void and we're big on taking guys that are attacking guys and making them outside backs and I thought he was a good fit.”
From that point forward, Yedlin transitioned to the role of right back and played exceptionally well for the Sounders FC Academy team during the 2010-2011 season. Yedlin recalls his time with the Sounders Academy as the most rewarding of his youth soccer career.
“It was probably one of the best soccer experiences that I've had. The team gelled together from the start and we were pretty much the best players from around the area and we were excited to play together. We were excited to play under a professional team and get a look onto the first team players and learn from them,” said Yedlin.
As a freshman at Akron University, Yedlin played exceptionally well and in many respects exceed expectations.
“We were optimistic about his chances to play as a freshman but to be honest we didn't know he would be a good as he was and would transition as quick and have as much of an impact as he did,” said Caleb Porter. “That's a credit to him and his talents. I think the biggest reason is that he's an incredible athlete. He's an elite athlete and I think that really helped in the transition.”
Playing this summer with the Sounders U-23 side, Yedlin is working to improve his consistency in the attack as well as his one-versus-one defending. Both are areas that both Yedlin and Caleb Porter recognize as areas needing the most improvement.
“He needs to work on when he does get forward, is being a little bit more lethal and clinical in his final passes, his crosses, and finishing,” said Porter.
Porter expects big things from his young right back coming into his sophomore year and is looking for DeAndre to dominate matchups and develop more of an edge and swagger to his game--something that Porter believes would serve DeAndre well.
“He's such a nice kid, very quiet--he's not quiet off the field, he's outgoing. I would like to see him be more assertive and aggressive and have a little bit of a more killer mentality," said Porter.
There is little doubt of Yedlin’s potential and his prospects are quite high. He continues to benefit from an outstanding professional organization, training and coaching with the Seattle Sounders FC and is playing for what many consider the finest collegiate program in the nation at Akron.
“He's as talented as any player I've coached in that role,” said Porter. “The sky is limit; he's a very talented kid.”