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March 3, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Homegrown product DeAndre Yedlin impresses in his MLS debut

Seattle native DeAndre Yedlin, 19, wasn't afraid to mix it up in his MLS debut with his hometown team. Photo credit: Bettina Hansen, The Seattle Times

Seattle native DeAndre Yedlin, 19, wasn’t afraid to mix it up in his MLS debut with his hometown team. Photo credit: Bettina Hansen, The Seattle Times

Welcome to MLS DeAndre Yedlin.

The 19-year-old Seattle native started for Sounders FC in Saturday’s season opener against Montreal, a 1-0 loss at CenturyLink Field. The opportunity was presented when Adam Johansson wasn’t able to go, due to a knee injury suffered in preseason.

Yedlin, the team’s first homegrown signing, was the second-youngest Sounder to start an MLS game (19 years, seven months, 21 days).

The youngest was Miguel Montano (19 years, 16 days), though the reviews for Yedlin’s performance were much better. You might remember Montano received a red card for striking Brek Shea in a July 11, 2010 game against FC Dallas, a 1-1 tie.

So what were the reviews for Yedlin’s performance?

“I thought he played well,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “I thought 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. I thought he played well, and I thought he had a good game.”

“He did well,” said midfielder Steve Zakuani, who was been a mentor of sorts to Yedlin. “He is a very confident player. He is one of those guys who just goes out and plays football. He is fearless and has fun when he is out there because he is playing with his friends. He did well. I am very proud of him and very happy for him. He is only going to get better.”

“Making your rookie debut is always a very emotional and fun night and thought he played really well,” said midfielder Andy Rose. “He was very cool and composed with the ball and he connected his passes. He really played to his strengths. He is a very good player.”

“Absolutely fantastic,” said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “He played very calm, won (duels), played good passes, had a couple of situations where we went on offense and made a couple of crosses, so for being 19 years old, a great game from him.”

“Brilliant” was the main word forward Eddie Johnson used on Twitter.

So how did Yedlin feel about all this?

“It was good,” the O’Dea High School product said. “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.”

Yedlin, who found out he was starting Friday, had about 10 friends and family members in attendance. He trained mostly with the first team throughout the week with Johansson limited with the injury.

He said his emotions before the game were what he called “a good balance” of excitedness and nervousness.

“Steve Zakuani told me to play simple, build your confidence and go from there,” Yedlin said.

So what is it like having Zakuani, another Akron standout, help the transition to MLS?

“It’s very important,” Yedlin said. “He’s kind of my mentor back there and kind of my back up if something goes wrong, so I’m definitely fortunate to have him behind me.”

After Saturday’s debut, all the Sounders were behind him.

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