SEATTLE – The Sounders-Timbers rivalry started nearly 20 years before DeAndre Yedlin was born. Though as the series that dates to 1975 is set to resume today, the 19-year-old Seattle native will likely be the game’s only starter at CenturyLink Field representing the city in which he grew up.
It’s a new touch to the rivalry. And while Yedlin is no stranger to its history, having been a witness over the years, this will be his first taste as a participant.
“It’ll definitely be a good experience for me,” Yedlin said. Maybe “another” good experience is more apt. Yedlin, a rookie defender who attended O’Dea High School, has been the early surprise of the Sounders’ season. He has played in all three games as a right back and started twice, his playing time admittedly aided by a knee injury to incumbent starter Adam Johansson. Yedlin scored a fantastic goal Tuesday to jump-start a three-goal comeback against Mexico’s Tigres UANL in the CONCACAF Champions League, which made him the youngest goal-scorer in team history.
Did he see this impact coming? “No,” Yedlin said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. I was more expecting to come in and absorb and learn by watching. It’s definitely been good being able to play and get out there and know what it feels like.”
Timbers coach Caleb Porter, who was Yedlin’s college coach at Akron, has kept a close eye on his former player as both made their leaps to MLS last offseason.
“I know his talent – obviously I coached him for two years – and he was one of the, I thought, top right backs in the country,” Porter said. “Very, very talented, athletic, and so, yeah, I knew he would do well. I don’t know if I necessarily expected him to be doing quite as well as he’s doing. I’m happy that he’s off to a good start.”
Not quite as surprised, necessarily, is coach Sigi Schmid, whose philosophy is to not sign homegrown players until they’re ready and have an opportunity to play. The speed at which Yedlin has picked things up, though, wasn’t expected.
Schmid credits that fast start to a good psychological balance in the young defender. “You can’t be afraid of the new situation and the scenario you get put in,” Schmid said, “but you can’t be overconfident about it either, because then you’re going to fail.”