Two Sounders will be making the trip to Brazil for the World Cup. They just might not be the exact two most expected.
Star forward Clint Dempsey and surprise inclusion DeAndre Yedlin are Seattle’s two representatives on the U.S. national team’s final World Cup roster of 23, which was released by the federation Thursday.
Only two other teams, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, had as many as two players named to the squad.
The excitement was buoyed, though, by the news that Sounders captain Brad Evans was one of the final seven cuts from the USMNT’s preliminary roster, a group of 30 that began training camp in Palo Alto, Calif., last week. Evans will return to Seattle, but his immediate availability is unclear.
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Thursday’s roster announcement was full of bombshells, starting with the timing. The FIFA deadline to submit the 23-man roster is June 2, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann had given no indication he was so close to naming his final team.
The most stunning individual exclusion, by far, was Landon Donovan, whose 57 goals and 58 assists are most in USMNT history.
Klinsmann’s lone comment on the roster came in a federation-released video, where he said leaving Donovan out was one of the toughest decisions of his coaching career: “I just see some other players slightly ahead of him. … His disappointment is huge. I totally understand it. He took it very professionally because he’s an outstanding professional player. He knows I have the highest respect for him, but I have to make the decisions as of today.”
One easy decision for Klinsmann was to include Dempsey, the 31-year-old U.S. captain who is set to feature in his third World Cup following his red-hot form with the Sounders. Few, though, envisioned Yedlin as being the club teammate to join him. The 20-year-old Seattle native has the physical tools to compare favorably with anyone in the U.S. pool, but many felt his inexperience and bouts of inconsistency as a developing player made the 2018 World Cup a more realistic goal.
Someone not surprised by Yedlin’s value to the USMNT is FOX Soccer broadcaster Eric Wynalda, who noted last week that quickness and agility were always going to be coveted assets in an extremely difficult group against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
“When Yedlin made the (preliminary roster) of 30, that, to me, was more of a statement that we’re going to need speed at the right-back position,” Wynalda said. “Experience is one thing, but when Ronaldo is running at you, you need to have the athleticism to run with him.”
Yedlin is the first MLS homegrown player to make a U.S. World Cup roster, and he joins a select list of local products who have represented the country on the world’s biggest stage, joining Olympia’s Kasey Keller, Everett’s Chris Henderson and Seattle’s Marcus Hahnemann — all of which are connected to Sounders FC.
Perhaps the unfortunate reality of Yedlin’s inclusion is that it might have come at the expense of Evans. Both play right back for the national team, while Yedlin starts regularly at the position for Seattle.
Evans had always been praised for his versatility, and he played an influential role in World Cup qualifying — most notably with a vital game-winner in Jamaica — but being a natural midfielder competing for a roster spot at defender was always going to be a challenge.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl wrote in reaction: “Evans has been a good soldier, and he’s learning right now that soccer isn’t fair sometimes.”
Evans will remain on the national team’s standby list for the World Cup in case of injury. He seemed to take the news OK, joking on Twitter: “You got off easy this time (Cristiano Ronaldo).”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184