DeAndre Yedlin

Making a Name With Defense

The Amoeba. Hydra. Call them what you will, but the Seattle Sounders make their name with offense. The only nickname thrown at the defense is maybe a$$h@/%$.

Surprisingly, so far this season Seattle is winning with defense. In the first four games of 2015, the Sounders have allowed just three goals. Only Colorado, DC and NYCFC have allowed fewer, and Seattle is tied atop the league table with a +3 goal differential. Granted, all three goals came in an ugly loss to the Quakes at home. But that means Seattle has held their opponent scoreless in three of their first four games.

Really?! Against San Jose?!

Really?! Against San Jose?!

The last time the Sounders kept three clean sheets in four matches was way back at the beginning of the 2013 campaign. After their really rough start, winless in their first five, Seattle righted the ship and starting knocking off wins. On April 20th they earned their first win 1-0 against the Rapids. After a bye, they drew the Union, 2-2, in Philly in a heated affair before shutting down SKC 1-nil and smashing San Jose 4-nil in the next 8 days (the Sounders won one more, 4-2, against Dallas before L.A. put four in the back of the net).

Remember all the red cards in that Philly game? Neagle was HEATED!

Remember all the red cards in that Philly game? Neagle was HEATED!

It has been 22 months since the Sounders had such a run. They played 66 MLS matches (including playoffs), and won 2 trophies in that span. The 2013 club was scoring with Mauro and Eddie and defending with Hurtado, Gspurning and a young kid DeAndre Whatshisname. And that season didn’t end well. 2014 was arguably the best squad Seattle ever fielded and they never played this tight in the back. If Clint and Oba can get their groove on with a little more consistency, L.A. better watch the throne.

 

Selling DeAndre Yedlin Let Seattle Print Money

Happy Friday Sounders fans! To provide a little break from the good injury news (Ozzie! Air Marshall!) and the bad (Dempsey), I’m posting an excerpt to a solid article written by Joseph Mondello on S2 and MLS. Mondello explores the value and vagaries of MLS’s economic reality, a league with a strict salary cap in a market of rampant salaries.

Mondello makes the interesting point that MLS has finally found a way to print its own money. He discusses Seattle’s own DeAndre Yedlin, signed on the cheap and then sold to Spurs for big money. If other MLS teams can start farming their own talent and getting such returns on investment, we may have found another pillar in the foundation of MLS’s financial sustainability. Here’s what he says:

Some major constraints that MLS clubs must operate within are the financial structure of the league, coupled with a unique salary cap requirements that clubs must work around. As a league with an ambitious long-term vision, the owners have agreed to a financing structure aimed toward steady growth in a variety of markets rather than rapid expansion in key markets. This decision is influenced by the specter of Pele and the New York Cosmos, and the subsequent crash of the North American Soccer League after his departure. The current salary cap is a meager $3.1 million, with a restriction that the team’s highest-earner make no more than $387,500 annually. Within this agreement is the Designated Player Rule, which allows each club to sign three players to higher contracts that are not counted against the salary cap. Additionally there is the inclusion of allocation money in financing. Clubs can sell players, as well as Superdraft, Expansion draft, and allocation draft picks for this allocation money. In MLS, allocation money holds heavy importance in a conservative league built for expansion — it can be used for anything from player contracts, to improving youth academies and reserve teams, or even building state of the art facilities to attract top-notch players.

The important role of allocation money in MLS success makes sustainable youth development even more paramount. Clubs can sign players to cheap homegrown contracts, and receive massive returns on investments in the form of allocation money from transfer fees. The current financing structure of MLS is based on long-term sustainability, genuinely passionate local and global fans, and a foundation that markets the league as a brand with low risk and exponential returns for investors in the future.

….

A success story that increased importance of youth development and the Homegrown Contract program is that of Seattle Sounders right-back DeAndre Yedlin, whose impressive performances at this summer’s World Cup led to a transfer to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. The reported 4.6 million pounds Seattle received from the transfer fee will likely be invested in the newly formed S2 and their youth academies. In a developing league with high ambitions and a restrictive salary cap, talented and cheaply produced young players are incredibly valuable assets. A club can sign a player from their academy to a contract ranging from 50 to 80 thousand dollars a year, and potentially sell them for millions of dollars.

The whole article is definitely worth the read. But I do take a little umbrage with Mondello when he lists Seattle with Portland, Salt Lake City and Kansas City as “smaller markets.” Seattle/Tacoma is the 15th largest metro area in the US and booming. We’ll be ranked higher soon as Detroit (currently 14th) is shrinking and decadent eastern seaboard cities, such as Boston and Philly, have seen their growth slowed to a crawl. The other “smaller markets” Mondello lumps us with: Portland (24), Kansas City (30), and Salt Lake (48). I realize “smaller” is a relative term, but c’mon man. My city’s filthy.

Seattle Sounders 2: Let’s Leave Less To Chance

I’m known to get a little too excited with potential and prospects, but after watching Seattle Sounds 2 dispatch the defending USL champion Sacramento Republic on Saturday night I have to ask. How much will the presence of S2 affect the makeup of the first team roster?

Everyone watching S2’s inaugural game came away impressed. Gorgeous ball movement, deft finishing, solid set pieces: the definition of Sounders soccer. Who wasn’t tempted to think if Rossi or Craven or Mansaray could do the same things at the next level? Sometimes lesser competition muddies the evaluation of talent. However. Rossi’s quality on his free kick goal, Mansaray crossing the final assist with the outside of his foot to a streaking Roldan, and Craven’s balance and touch controlling the pass before smashing it home are all translatable skills.

As I discussed recently, sports is about new blood. In baseball, the late season Triple-A call-up who contributes to the playoff run. But soccer in the United States has long lacked a competent minor league. So has the NFL, but that league is still littered with stories where “untested” scout teamers blossom on the biggest stage. Kurt Warner was a journeyman nobody until Trent Green got injured in the preseason. Same with Tom Brady until Drew Bledsoe’s week 2 injury. The coaches saw plenty of both at practice, enough to slot them second string but without a timely injury, they’d never have surpassed the coach’s wildest imagination. “Next man up” is great and all, but what if the next man never gets the chance?

A bias exists on the practice field. Professional sports, the last great meritocracy, is not exactly that. The human animal is sentimental and risk averse. It is much easier to reward past performance than project future returns. Most coaches and managers have trouble selling high (see Amaro Jr., Ruben, and the Philadelphia Phillies). A good coach should cull as ruthless as death the “soon-to-be” from the “just-was”. Belichick lucked into Brady. He and the Patriots had just signed the 29 year-old Drew Bledsoe to a then-record 10-year, $103 million contract. How was “the greatest coach of all time” unable to see that the young Brady was ripe to overtake the old pro? If the Patriots had a developmental team, say the Pats 2, they may have known sooner that Brady was the future.

DeAndre Yedlin is arguably the Sounders’ Brady, a talented unknown who became a star because of an injury to a trusted vet. The Sounders had no intention of moving on from Adam Johansson until his injury. Sigi is a sharp evaluator of talent, he knew when to move on from Eddie and Mauro, but he wasn’t clamoring to start Yedlin back in March 2013. We, and the USMNT, got lucky Johansson was injured that preseason. S2 should take a little luck out of the equation.

I doubt presence of S2 provides serious roster churn this season but, at least, when we have to replace Deuce and Oba we’ll have a much better idea of who’s next up.

Jordan Morris vs. DeAndre Yedlin

Yesterday I wrote about Jordan Morris and his looming decision to sign with MLS. I want to be clear, Morris forgoing MLS for Europe is very different than DeAndre Yedlin quickly bolting to sign with Tottenham Hotspur.

Both players’ actions are similar in that they say, “MLS is not the best league in the world. I want to test myself against better competition.” Thing is, no one is saying otherwise. MLS is not the best league in the world. Better players play elsewhere. Morris skipping out on the domestic league boldly insults MLS’s, and the American soccer infrastructure’s, ability to develop soccer talent. Whereas Yedlin’s decision was nothing but good publicity for MLS.

Yedlin and Morris had very different career paths. Morris practically has Lebron-esque hype. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann raves about him and the Sounders are salivating at the chance to sign him. And Morris was capped by the senior team yesterday (and had some dangerous touches) in the USMNT’s 4-1 drubbing to Ireland. This is a far cry from Yedlin’s experience.

DeAndre Yedlin was a nobody when he became a Sounder. Like Morris now, Yedlin was a collegiate sophomore when he signed his first professional contract. But Yedlin wasn’t getting a sniff from US Soccer during his Akron days. Before a random injury to Adam Johansson opened the door for Yedlin to play, he was just another talented youngster. No one expected much from him but now he’s the owner of shiny new contract with an EPL club. Here lies the rub, the chief difference between Morris and Yedlin’s situations.

MLS did right by DeAndre Yedlin. MLS commissioner Don Garber and Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer despise Klinsmann’s notion that MLS cannot develop young players or challenge developed players. This narrative, they contend, stunts the sport’s growth in our country. Yedlin is a huge piece of evidence that Garber and Hanauer are right. Sigi Schmid and the Sounders coaches are responsible for Yedlin’s rapid development. Klinsmann rostered Yedlin in Brazil mostly because he liked what he saw from the Sounders rightback. It is hypocritical for Klinsmann to denigrate MLS at the same time he lauds Yedlin. Seattle gave Yedlin serious minutes and serious coaching. And he’s a better player for it.

Yedlin can only jump straight to Spurs because he developed in MLS. Spurs are, usually, a top five club in the EPL. It isn’t like Yedlin’s signing with an Eredivisie also-ran. Too many Americans go overseas and fail to see significant minutes or end up in leagues no better than our domestic one. How is this better for a young player’s development than the Yedlin experience? No one knows where Morris will end up or if he will ever deliver on the promise of his talent. But he would be wise to consider Yedlin’s past eighteen months and make his decision accordingly. I feel it is the best possible decision for the young man, as an American soccer fan and a devotee of the Eternal Blue Forever Green.

DeAndre Yedlin Transfers and the Sounders Near Ascension

The Seattle Sounders rolled to an emphatic victory against the Chicago Fire last night in the semifinals of the US Open Cup. In winning, Seattle clinched their fifth berth in the USOC finals in 6 years. The Sounders will meet the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in Chester, PA on September 16th for the Open Cup Championship.

I am starting to get cocky. Yes Seattle lost the “coin flip” and must travel for the final. I don’t want to get overly confident more than a month from the match, but this is a very winnable game. Philly in 2014 is not SKC in 2012. Yes sometimes the lesser team wins (see D.C. United vs. RSL, 2013), and yes travel means we won’t benefit from the Tukwila hoodoo, and yes, Ricardo Salazar may even referee the match (it’s a possibility), but the Sounders look like a strong bet to be hoisting the Lamar Hunt Cup in mid-September.

Seattle would be joining some lofty company if they win their fourth USOC title in sixyears. Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles are the only teams in the 100+ years of the tournament to win more than 4 titles (both have 5), and only the just beat Chicago Fire plus the Fall River Marksmen, Greek American AA, and the Philadelphia Ukrainians have won 4. But no team has been an Open Cup powerhouse like Seattle since the dawn of the competition when the aforementioned Bethlehem Steel made five finals appearances in five years, winning four titles. Maccabi Los Angeles’s accumulated their titles over a decade much like Chicago did. Seattle is quickly becoming a legend in this tournament, especially after so thoroughly dousing the Fire, the only other MLS team that can claim such Open Cup accolades.

***

All my prognosticating about lineups went mostly for naught and my bold prediction was overly conservative. We pissed on them! Seattle started a solid lineup and scored a boatload of goals. Seriously, look at how may players had a multiple point game:

Kenny Cooper: 2 goals, 2 assists

Obafemi Martins: 1 goal, 1 assist

Andy Rose: 2 goals

Marco Pappa: 2 assist

And Chad Barrett and DeAndre Yedlin also contributed to the scoring.

Bonanza.

***

We can continue to play line-up Nostradamus. Given minutes played, injuries sustained and cards accumulated, projecting the Sounders lineup is a little like Sudoku. Chad Marshall should start in the big six-pointer Saturday against RSL on normal rest, as should Clint Dempsey and a getting-fit Leo Gonzalez. Obafemi Martins cannot play due to his red card suspension.

Hopefully none of this comes back to bite the Sounders as they continue sussing their way through this very congested schedule, but Oba’s suspension begs the question, why only give him 17 minutes against the Fire? Sigi will need to pair someone up top with Dempsey. Both Cooper and Barrett got extensive minutes last night. The only other striker option is Lamar Neagle. I am nervous about Neagle’s availability. He got roughed up a bit by the Fire and I wonder if he can start or even contribute Saturday. On the other hand, Sigi never seems to question Pappa’s fitness. Is he as much an Energizer Bunny as Ozzie? He just keeps going and going and going.

Gonzalo Pineda should join Ozzie in the middle on normal rest, but Andy Rose looked absolutely solid last night. Solid. Hell I have been a big Pineda supporter all season, but if Rose keeps playing like he did against Chicago… I’d like to see his name permanently affixed to the starting lineup.

***

Congratulation to DeAndre Yedlin for getting the ink on the paper. Yedlin has officially signed a transfer to join Tottenham Hotspur for a reported $4 million fee. The North London club expects to have Yedlin for the 2015 EPL season meaning Yedlin is here for at least the rest of this year and possibly part of next (unless Spurs decides to loan him to a club closer to White Hart Lane). You were too good so soon Yedlin, I wish you the best of luck as you chase challenges and your dream overseas. But first, let’s get that treble!

DeAndre Yedlin Jumping Across the Pond

MLS All-Star and USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin is reported to be transferring to Tottenham Hotspur. I’m sad to see him go, but wish him the best, I am currently in Alaska at the wedding of my best friend, so don’t have time to unspool my thoughts. I’ll get to discussing this huge news later in the week.

DeAndre Yedlin and the Great American Paper Chase

DeAndre Yedlin is selling Xboxes, Golazo and American soccer. This must be fattening his wallet, but the real payday will come if Yedlin signs that oft-rumored big, juicy European contract. Aside from prestige or developmental reasons, should Yedlin sign overseas just to follow the money?

Currently Yedlin makes $92,000, up from $52k as a rookie. That’s a mighty healthy raise but not market value for an international soccer star of his caliber, especially after the World Cup he had. Yedlin makes more than most of us, but it is small beans in the world of professional athletes.

I’m always impressed to see how little some MLS players make. Dylan Remick makes exactly what I do as an adjunct community college instructor: $36,000 a year. He’s on TV, playing a professional sport and getting paid a wage I often complain about. That’s mindblowing. We are conditioned to see pro athletes make bills. Remick making $36k seems as surreal as a janitor taking home six figures. And yet why are janitors paid less and athletes more? Of course money is only a metaphor: the janitor is not less useful than the fullback. But this shows one of the narratives we take for granted in this country, that professional athletes should make more than most normal professions.

What if all professional sports leagues lowered their salaries across the board and found a standardized and modest pay scale? We would reject that because it is part of our culture to complain about overpaid athletic divas. Eddie Johnson played the part of an American athlete perfectly. In Mark Bowden’s book Bringing the Heat about the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles, he discovers the MEAT principle being discussed amongst the Eagles. MEAT stands for “Maximize Earnings at All Times.” Eddie Johnson was adrift after fruitless stints in Europe and Mexico, his career in tatters. Seattle made him a humble offer ($150,000+, not chump change) and he soon outperformed that contract. He made a stink and potentially ruined a locker room, but Eddie was just looking to MEAT.

Yedlin seems a great guy and is saying all the right things, for now. When it comes to paydays, MLS’s byzantine salary rules are muddying his situation. Currently Yedlin is on a Homegrown Player contract, this allows him to make more than the league minimum and his salary doesn’t count against the cap. But to command the money he could in Europe, MLS would need to break their own rules (which they love to do), or get him those mysterious “retention funds” or a DP contract. But “retention funds” are fishy and Seattle already has three deserving DPs. So shouldn’t Yedlin bolt overseas to MEAT?

MLS is a downright different league. The low salaries keep a hint of amateurism, and the sense that players are playing outta pure love, in MLS. But the salary elasticity is incredible. For example, Clint Dempsey banks $6.7 million and Remick only that $36k. No other American professional sports league has such a wide earnings gap.  Even the grand daddy of them all, the NFL, has salaries much closer. Percy Harvin, after inking his blockbuster contract to come to Seattle, will make a whooping $11 million (almost twice Dempsey’s salary) this year for the Seahawks, but the NFL league minimum is $420,000 (almost 12 times Remicks’s). MLS has created a cartel-like infrastructure, where the league owns all contracts and franchises etc., to ensure financial sustainability. But this elasticity is contributing to players looking overseas and that affects the league’s long-term goals of being a league of choice.

Disparate salaries are affecting league financial sustainability and also roster stability. Last year we lost Mauro Rosales because the cap was too tight. I am sure Seattle would’ve loved to find a way to keep Mauro, but just couldn’t under the current paradigm. Now Obafemi Martins has started to posture at press conferences for a new contract. He makes $1.6 million and was the big man on Seattle’s campus until Deuce came to town. Now he is vastly out-earned. This must affect the camaraderie in the locker room (see: Johnson, Eddie). However, it is expected that MLS will ratify a new CBA in the offseason. We expect a major increase in the salary cap. This should help smooth egos, but how will MLS and soccer in this country change as salaries begin to creep up and natural cynicism enters the sport?

DeAndre Yedlin Leaving the Seattle Sounders and MLS in a Lurch

Seattle’s son DeAndre Yedlin appears to be leaving the hometown Seattle Sounders for AS Roma. Ambition. This is about ambition and the complicated intersection of corporate, personal and athletic ambition. MLS wants to grow as a league and needs personalities to market for better television deals. On the heels of his World Cup success, DeAndre Yedlin seems the perfect media-friendly and marketable megawatt star. However Yedlin is a supernova of soccer talent and, like any trained competitor, seeks the next challenge. Europe offers the traditional “next step” for talented American soccer players and Yedlin would join Donovan, Howard, Dempsey and Bradley as THE overseas American. Lastly, Soccer in the United States seems to finally be ascending to its rightful place in the forefront of the national consciousness and needs homegrown stars to anchor this growth.

I can’t hope to explore all of this in one post, so I am going to chew on this topic bit by bit. Today I present my personal angle to the DeAndre Yedlin to AS Roma news. Do I think this transfer is a good thing? No. I do not like it one bit. Yedlin leaving for Europe reinforces the idea that MLS is a mid-major, a farm league for the “better” leagues overseas.

Let me clarify that I honestly wish DeAndre Yedlin the best of luck. I am not responding to him as a person, but rather the idea of him as a player. If he can increase his earning while chasing a dream, more power to him. I wish everyone such fortune. I wish him the best of success and hope he becomes the starting rightback on a name brand European side competing deep into Champions League. That’d be great for him, but not so for MLS.

MLS is becoming relevant. The league was most popular for a brief time following the media explosion that accompanied the Beckham signing. That was an unsustainable windfall of attention dependent on one global icon and a long period of declining interested followed. Lately the league is gaining real popularity. MLS has developed a strong foundation of grassroots interest evidenced by new tv deals and rapid expansion. National team stars like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are returning, choosing to ply their trade at home. These two prodigal sons returning seemed to be a tipping point, the first evidence of MLS becoming a legitimate league. Now a young, bright, local star is choosing to ditch the league and it smarts. I have heard it argued that MLS has finally beaten the “retirement league” rap, that the league will no longer be defined by the likes of Henry and Beckham pasturing here. That narrative died when Dempsey and Bradley came back. They rocked the paradigm, but Yedlin complicates it. We shouldn’t be bickering about retirement home vs. nursery, we need to flip the script. How can MLS gain legitimacy if it still appears to be a feeder league for Europe?

MLS is intended to be a destination league. Not to sound jingoistic, but America has the money to do what she wants. We have the infrastructure, economy and population to grow a quality league. MLS just needs interest. Interest from the fans in bigger and bigger television deals and interest from prospective players, the kids choosing basketball or football right now. But Yedlin leaving proves that soccer belongs in Europe. A local kid playing soccer may’ve looked at Yedlin and thought, “One day I can play of the Sounders.” Does he now ask, “How soon can I use Seattle to jump overseas?”

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