Photo credit: U.S. Soccer / @ussoccer

Finally fit, Yedlin fills USMNT’s longtime void at right back

2 Comments

The right-back position has proven a crippling quandary for the U.S. national team ever since Steve Cherundolo’s international retirement in 2012. (Left back was — and remains — an issue long before then, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

[ MORE: 3rd? 4th? 5th? USMNT scenarios on the final day of WCQ ]

So many were asked to fill the career-long Hannover star’s boots — Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler and most recently Graham Zusi each played the position in significant stretches over the last five years — only to come up woefully short of Cherundolo’s lofty standard. The 2014 World Cup provided a perfect jumping-off point for the most promising prospect of the post-‘Dolo era: DeAndre Yedlin.

“Especially being so young and not really expecting to go [in 2014], it was a crazy feeling,” Yedlin said this week. “I can’t obviously thank Jurgen enough for putting his trust in me and bringing me into that, and that’s really what jump-started my career.”

[ MORE: Player ratings from USA 4-0 PanamaThree things we learned ]

Like those who came before him, even the dream of Yedlin becoming the instant answer fizzled out for a period before landing at Newcastle United last summer, at the age of 23, where he’d reclaim his form and fitness in the Championship. Following his failed move to Tottenham Hotspur the winter after Brazil, Yedlin spent most of the next two seasons unavailable due to injuries more often than not.

“I’ve had to grow up pretty quick, but I’m glad that I chose to make this step to kind of move away from what I’m comfortable from.”

[ MORE: Pulisic, Altidore feel “all the emotions” as WC dreams rescued ]

Now 24, and having been fit for much of the last 15 months, Yedlin is an integral piece of the Magpies’ puzzle, and returned to the USMNT in its most desperate time of need: needing wins in each of their final two 2018 World Cup qualifiers to assure their place at next summer’s tournament in Russia.

Friday night in Orlando, Fla., Yedlin reassumed the starting spot from Zusi and flourished, helping the Yanks to a vitally important 4-0 victory over Panama. He alone stood out as the star performer along a sometimes-shaky four-man backline, flashing the recovery speed and open-field marauding that earned him a move to the Premier League at the age of 21. According to Yedlin, much of what he brings to the team is an energy level that’s unmatched and confounds his teammates.

“Everybody tells me they don’t know how I have so much energy, and I think people feed off that, which is great.”

More importantly, playing under Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has matured the mental side of Yedlin’s game immeasurably. His ability to recover serious real estate in the blink of an eye remains, but Friday’s performance was largely born out of a newfound ability to read the game around him.

“It’s a very physical league. It’s a league that if you lose focus for even a little bit of time, they can punish you,” Yedlin said. “Working with Rafa has taken my game to another level.”

That tactical growth, so perfectly exemplified by noticeable restraint and an understanding of when he can and can’t take risks, are precisely the signs that have USMNT fans counting on Yedlin to come better than good on his second trip to a World Cup.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

Peter Byrne/PA via AP
Leave a comment
  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.