COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Just over half a year into making his move to Tottenham Hotspur permanent, DeAndre Yedlin hasn’t made the same splash he did with the Seattle Sounders, nor was he expecting to. Competing with Kyle Walker and Eric Dier at right back left Yedlin with just 11 minutes of playing time in his first Premier League half-season.
He made Seattle’s first-week lineup in 2013 after an injury to Adam Johansson led to the Swede’s departure ahead of the season. What started potentially as a stopgap measure evolved into Yedlin’s breakout season in Seattle and eventual place on the USA's 2014 World Cup roster, but it hasn’t gone quite as swiftly in North London. Being a young outsider attempting to crack the lineup at a top-half Premier League side was never going to be a given.
“This process is taking a little bit longer, but I expected that. It’s another level up, so I work hard every day and just try to improve and hopefully prove that I deserve a spot,” the 22-year-old Yedlin told reporters ahead of his third straight MLS All-Star Game–but his first as an opponent–on Tuesday. “I think my game’s improving. Obviously, it’s a little easier when you’re getting games, but I think just with the practice that I’ve had with the team, it’s improving, so that’s a good sign.”
Others on the team noted his adaptation process has been as swift as could be expected. Yedlin’s integration to the first team came gradually, as he made the Spurs bench seven times in the last two months of the season.
“He’s impressed everybody in training, and everybody can see his qualities. The competition is tough over there,” Tottenham left back Ben Davies said. “Kyle Walker is one of the best fullbacks in the league, so it’s obviously going to be tough competing with him. We all know the qualities DeAndre’s got, and I’m sure when he gets that opportunity that he’ll prove everybody right.”
Tottenham might be the deepest team in the league in terms of youthful fullbacks. Walker, 25, has played 11 times for England. When he struggled with injuries last season, Dier, 21, filled in well enough to earn a provisional spot on the English Under-21 side for this summer’s European Championship.
“[Manager Mauricio Pochettino] has shown that he’s willing to give you a try if he feels that you’re good enough, so that’s great for any young player,” club ambassador Ledley King, who played 268 times for Spurs in his 13-year career after coming through the academy, said. “I’m sure the speed of the game probably surprised [Yedlin], and he’s had time to bed into that and learn about the experience. Coming back for this preseason will have [left him] in good stead, and I’m sure he’s working really hard to try to force his way into the team.”
It’s unclear whether going on loan could be an option for Yedlin. He said he’s “not sure about the plan ahead” yet, and he’ll have just two more chances to impress after the All-Star Game, when Spurs plays in the Audi Cup hosted by Bayern Munich to finish off an abbreviated preseason.
“He has a very good potential for the future,” Pochettino said in a press conference on Monday. “He has an opportunity now to show his value and try to convince me to stay the next season, just like any other player has the same opportunity to show his quality.”
As fellow young United States international Julian Green found last season, the possible pitfalls of a loan could see the 22-year-old Yedlin sitting on the bench no matter which colors he wears.
Short-term deals don’t always guarantee minutes, and Green hardly played for Hamburg’s first team on loan from Bayern.
Moving to right wing, as he does often for Jurgen Klinsmann on the national team, could also be a tricky proposition. That would see Yedlin competing against the likes of Pochettino’s countryman Érik Lamela, who joined Spurs from Roma for a club-record £30 million including bonuses ahead of the 2013-14 season.
However, with Lamela’s lack of production, recent rumors have him on his way to Porto. Whether that opens a spot for Yedlin higher up the field, where he could be freer to bomb forward in his typically speedy style, remains to be seen.
For Yedlin, it’s a matter of patience and perseverance until he gets his opportunity.
“You can’t rush things. I’m still young, and it will take time,” he said. “That’s the main thing: just be patient, and my chance will come.”