BY JOSEPH SIMS
A week and a half ago, hometown hero DeAndre Yedlin finally transferred away from Seattle. Kinda.
He’ll go to the north London club Tottenham Hotspur at some point, for a fee of $4 million. When Tottenham call him is still in doubt. But as I watched him raise the 12th man flag ahead of Friday’s Seahawks preseason home against Chicago, I reflected on his stay in Seattle.
I am sad to see Yedlin leave Seattle – especially to join the bitter rivals of my favorite club, Arsenal – it is still the best thing that could have happened for Yedlin, and for soccer in the USA.
First, let’s look at the management at Yedlin’s future club. While there is no guarantee that he will still be at Tottenham when they decide to summon Yedlin, manager Mauricio Pochettino is one of the best in the world at getting the most from a player like Yedlin. His record at developing young potential is superb.
During his time with Southampton, Pochettino took many great, young talents produced by the wonderful Southampton academy and turned them into superstars. Many of their players were sought after by big clubs following Pochettino’s departure this summer, notably Calum Chambers (age 19, $20 million to Arsenal), Dejan Lovren (age 25, $33.25 million to Liverpool), and Luke Shaw (age 19, $45 million to Manchester United). And these are just the highlights from his Southampton years, not even touching his time at Espanyol. Pochettino has a proven record of getting the most out of players with massive potential. I hope that he’ll continue that streak with Yedlin at Tottenham.
But even if Pochettino isn’t around by the time Yedlin heads to North London, Tottenham is still a great fit for him. Tottenham is a good-but-not-great team in England’s Premier League, the perfect level for a young player with tons of potential looking to break out.
As good as DeAndre is, he would not start for Manchester City or Chelsea. Heck, he probably will not even start for Tottenham for a while. But he has a better chance of getting playing time with the Spurs than with a team that is constantly in the title race.
Still, Tottenham is a very good side. The club usually makes decent runs in the FA Cup and League Cup (two competitions that many big clubs use as a way to get their bench/youth players playing time), so Yedlin will likely see action there. Tottenham is also a frequent qualifier for the Europa League, the “little brother” of the UEFA Champions League. This is a fantastic opportunity for Yedlin to gain invaluable experience against teams and players from all over Europe, but the stakes are not so high that he would never get a chance to play over the regular starters. For defenders, experience is possibly their most valuable asset, so the importance of playing against competition from a variety of leagues in Europe cannot be overstated.
So what does this mean for U.S. soccer? First, a better Yedlin means a better national team, and that is always good for interest in the sport in this country. We like to win, plain and simple. But it also could increase the exposure of top-level soccer to people in the USA (sorry MLS fans, I love our league as much as you do, but European soccer is far higher quality).
This year, Everton’s following in the United States has risen noticeably as people continue to watch goalkeeper (and World Cup star) Tim Howard at the club level. The same may happen with Yedlin. Exposure to higher levels of soccer is a good way to get more casual fans (such as those who may have been recently “converted” by the World Cup) into the sport at first. And who knows? If he succeeds in Europe, he may inspire future homegrown players to even greater heights.
Any way you slice it, this move, sad as it is, looks like a good thing for Yedlin’s growth as a player and, by extension, the national team and soccer in the USA.
Joseph Sims graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla in May with a degree in politics. The graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle has an obsession with soccer that has taken him all over the globe, from the World Cup in South Africa, to the Emirates Stadium in London, to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry right here in Seattle. Follow his journey around the country during the World Cup to find the heart and soul of soccer in the U.S. in the Take 2 blog.
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