TORONTO — The Gregg Berhalter era is almost a year old for most members of the United States men’s national team. But for veteran defender DeAndre Yedlin, it’s really only just beginning.
Yedlin recently returned from the groin surgery that forced him to miss the end of the last Premier League season plus the USMNT’s run to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. On Oct. 6, his first game in five months, the speedy 26-year-old helped Newcastle United upset Manchester United.
Now Yedlin is back with the national team for just the second time since Berhalter was hired last December. And in Tuesday’s cross-border showdown with Canada here, his experience could be crucial; Yedlin is one of two players on the young U.S. roster, along with Michael Bradley, who has actually played in a World Cup.
“I’m recovered now,” Yedlin, who sat out Friday’s 7-0 thrashing of Cuba, said before the Americans trained at BMO Field on Monday. “It’s obviously taken a little bit longer than previously, just getting back from this injury. But I’m good. I feel ready to go if I’m called upon.”
There’s a good chance Berhalter will. The injury to Yedlin and another to blue-chip 20-year-old Tyler Adams helped FC Dallas’ Reggie Cannon win the right back job during the Gold Cup. The match against Cuba marked Cannon’s fifth consecutive start.
But with the hungry and talented Canadians presenting a much more difficult challenge in the USA’s second CONCACAF Nations League tilt, Berhalter rested several presumed first-choice players last week. It sure looked like he was saving his best lineup for this week’s trip north.
“Especially on the attacking side, they offer some difficulties that we’re going to have to pay attention to,” Yedlin said of Les Rouges.
Cannon, 21, has acquitted himself well since breaking into the U.S. setup this year. “I really like Reggie,” Berhalter said Monday. “And I think he performed well again on Friday night.”
This match is on the road, though, and Canada’s two most dangerous players are probably Alphonso Davies and Junior Hoilett, both of them lightning-quick wingers. As such, Berhalter might prefer to go with the old Premier League hand in Yedlin, who has spent much of the last four years facing all-world flank players in hostile environments in the Prem.
“DeAndre’s a quality player,” Berhalter said. “It’s been frustrating. It’s taken a long time for him to get back on the field, back healthy, back feeling like himself.”
When he’s fit, Yedlin’s pedigree offers a calming presence on the pitch. Off of it, too. On a team with an average age of 25, whose two best players are 21-year-old midfielders Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, that matters.
After all, Yedin has been in their shoes. When he was 20, he was the second-youngest player on the 2014 U.S. World Cup squad. Still more than three years shy of his 30th birthday, Yedin is now embracing his evolving role as a leader.
“I think the biggest thing is just telling guys that there’s going to be mistakes made and not [to get] too down about those mistakes and just getting on with it,” said Yedlin, who wore the captain’s armband against Chile in March. “Especially with younger players, at least with me, it was one of those things that I really had to learn.”
“He brings experience to the table,” McKennie said of the “very likable” Yedlin. “He’s able to be really close with the younger guys on the team. And he’s also able to show that he’s been there, and done it.”
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