U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin has had a rapid rise over the past year, from his robust rookie season with Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC to his trip to Turkey to represent the USA at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The 2014 campaign opened with another meaningful stretch for Yedlin as U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought the speedy outside back into a couple of camps, and two appearances off the bench.
ussoccer.com caught up with Yedlin during the USA’s most recent camp heading into the April 2 match against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz., as Klinsmann and the staff make their player evaluations to solidify the 2014 FIFA World Cup roster that will compete in Brazil this summer.
Jurgen Klinsmann brought you in during a vital stretch before this summer’s World Cup. What has it meant to be part of the MNT at this stage, and what
has it been like learning from Klinsmann?
DeAndre Yedlin: “He has given me a lot. I’ve said it before – Jurgen’s a great coach. He had a great career, and to know that he sees me that highly, that he called me back, is very promising for me. It gives me a lot of confidence, and it’s very exciting to be a part of. At the same time, you never want to get an opportunity because a guy’s injured and has to miss a game (fellow Sounders defender Brad Evans could not participate because of a calf injury), but you also have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. You want to have a good showing and make your case for the World Cup.”
Have you been caught up in the possibility of a spot at this World Cup?
DY: “I’ve tried not to, but it’s hard at times. Obviously I would love to make this World Cup squad. I think it would be a great experience for me. But, my career is still young, and there is a lot of time left in it. If this time doesn’t come around, then I’m going to be working even harder for the next time.”
What has the competitive environment been like this year with the MNT?
DY: “The competition’s great. There’s nobody here who’s going to be upset at a certain player for taking their spot or losing a spot. It’s all great competition. Everybody wants a spot, but the reality is that not everybody’s going to get it. Everybody here is a great player, and everybody here’s going to be pushing each other to be the best they can be, which is amazing. You don’t see that on a lot of teams. In other teams, guys will come in and get angry or have a bad mind-set if somebody takes their spot or they lose their spot to somebody.”
Beyond on-the-field aspects of the National Team, how much have you picked up from players and the staff off the field, such as nutrition or recovery,
to maximize your abilities?
DY: “The January camp was really helpful with learning about those elements. [Nutritionist] Danielle [Lafata] opened my eyes to taking supplements, vitamins, getting shakes after practice, ice baths and everything like that. Since that camp, I have continued that with my club team, and I think it’s helped me.
“As far as recovery, after practice I’ll usually get in an ice bath, get a message. I’m still young, so it’s hard to get on the message table within a decent amount of time, but I try to get on the massage table, eat right and have a healthy diet. Recovery is preparation – that’s the start of the next day. Depending on how you recover is how you’re going to feel the next day, so that’s important.”
Where do you think you have improved the most as you’ve gained more experience both professionally and now with the National Team?
DY: “I’ve tried to become more of a leader on and off the field. I think that also helps me bring out my best qualities. I definitely try to have a 24/7 mentality and try to build on it even more.
“I try to work on different parts of my game that I think need improvement. Even some parts that I don’t think need it, but every part needs improvement. The better parts of my game, I still try to work on. I can always get better, and that’s what I’m striving for – to be the best.”