When Sounders FC fielded its first-11 unit Friday against Veracruz, coach Sigi Schmid penciled in a lineup of 10 returning veterans along with one teenage rookie.
That was 19-year-old defender DeAndre Yedlin, one of three rookie defenders – along with SuperDraft picks Eriq Zavaleta and Dylan Remick – who could spark the beginning of a youth movement on the Sounders’ back line.
Yedlin played the full 90 minutes as Seattle managed a scoreless draw against the Mexican second-division club.
“The veterans made it easy for me,” Yedlin said. “(They were) telling me to play simple, giving me options to play. It was a lot easier than people would have thought it was, just because they make it so easy for me.”
One veteran who helped the rookie – and was impressed by him – was goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
“I’m very proud of our young guys because they have talent, and more important they have character,” he said. “... DeAndre made a very good game on the side. He feels comfortable. He fits good on the team.”
Yedlin is the youngest player on the roster. During the offseason he became the club’s first homegrown player as a graduate of the Sounders FC Academy. He played at O’Dea High School in Seattle before going on to two seasons at the University of Akron. He also played with Pierce County-based Sounders U-23.
His appearance against Veracruz drew particular attention because Schmid had said he was using that game to give his starters experience against a Mexican club before resuming CONCACAF Champions League play next week in Monterrey, Mexico.
Yedlin started at right back in place of Adam Johansson, who was out with a knee injury.
It isn’t yet known if Johansson will be available Saturday when the Sounders open their Major League Soccer season at home against the Montreal Impact, or for the CCL quarterfinal opener on March 6.
If Johansson can’t go, Schmid said he will have options to weigh – including whether such high-stakes games would be appropriate for Yedlin’s pro debut.
“You don’t want to put him into a situation where he’s going to fail and has to recover from that,” Schmid said. “But he’s played well. ... A lot will depend on where we are with the other things: When Djimi Traore gets here, how fit he is. Is Johansson coming back from injury? Is Shalrie Joseph ready to go? Does that mean maybe Brad Evans can play right back? Obviously (central defender Patrick) Ianni is still out for a while. When you look at it, we still have some missing parts.”
Rookie defenders Zavaleta and Remick sat out the Veracruz friendly, but they drew starting assignments in both Desert Diamond Cup matches last week, a 2-0 win over New York, and a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the final.
“I thought Remick was OK,” Schmid said Wednesday after the Red Bulls game. “I thought Zavaleta got off to a bad start, but you have to give him kudos because he recovered from the start and played well. A lot of guys would have tanked it from there.”
Seattle took Zavaleta with the No. 10 overall pick in the preseason SuperDraft. He was known as a goal-scorer at Indiana, but while the Sounders are looking at him at forward and central defense, Schmid has said his higher potential is in the back.
There is no rush to figure it out because as a Generation Adidas player, Zavaleta does not count against the senior roster, which largely assures him sticking with the team.
That was not so for Remick, a second-round pick from Brown. However, the Sounders confirmed their confidence last week by signing him to his first pro contract.
“It was a dream come true to get that contract,” Remick said. “(I’m) extremely happy, thankful that the organization is giving me this opportunity. All the guys have been great so far through preseason. It’s been a great experience. The dream is just starting now, and I’m just looking forward.”
A Sounders FC representative is in Spain this week trying to work out a transfer deal for forward Obafemi Martins, a striker playing with La Liga club Levante.
Martins is 28, from Nigeria, and formerly played with Newcastle United of the English Premier League.
If a deal is reached, the news could come by midweek. That likely would be closely followed by an announcement that Seattle is buying out the contract of current designated player Christian Tiffert.
ROOKIE DEFENDERS UNDER CONTRACT
Right back signed as Sounders’ first homegrown player.
5-8, 160. Age: 19. Hometown: Seattle. College: Akron. Jersey number: 2.
Central defender was first-round pick in 2013 SuperDraft.
6-1, 185. Age: 20. Hometown: Westfield, Ind. College: Indiana. Jersey number: 22.
Left back was second-round pick in 2013 SuperDraft.
6-0, 165. Age: 21. Hometown: Inverness, Ill. College: Brown. Jersey number: 45.blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer