The Sounders-Timbers rivalry, which dates to 1975, resumes Saturday at CenturyLink Field. In the middle of it this year will be 19-year-old Seattle native DeAndre Yedlin, who has been an early season revelation.
The Sounders-Timbers rivalry started nearly 20 years before DeAndre Yedlin was born.
Though as the series that dates to 1975 is set to resume at 5 p.m. Saturday, the 19-year-old Seattle native will likely be the game’s only starter at CenturyLink Field representing the city in which he grew up.
It’s a new touch to the rivalry. And while Yedlin is no stranger to its history, having been a witness over the years, this will be his first taste as a participant.
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“It’ll definitely be a good experience for me,” Yedlin said.
Maybe “another” good experience is more apt.
Yedlin, a rookie defender who attended O’Dea High School, has been the early surprise of the Sounders’ season.
He has played in all three games as a right back and started twice, his playing time admittedly aided by a knee injury to incumbent starter Adam Johansson. Yedlin scored a fantastic goal Tuesday to jump-start a three-goal comeback against Mexico’s Tigres UANL in the CONCACAF Champions League, which made him the youngest goal-scorer in team history.
Did he see this impact coming?
“No,” Yedlin said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. I was more expecting to come in and absorb and learn by watching. It’s definitely been good being able to play and get out there and know what it feels like.”
Timbers coach Caleb Porter, who was Yedlin’s college coach at Akron, has kept a close eye on his former player as both made their leaps to MLS last offseason.
“I know his talent — obviously I coached him for two years — and he was one of the, I thought, top right backs in the country,” Porter said. “Very, very talented, athletic, and so, yeah, I knew he would do well. I don’t know if I necessarily expected him to be doing quite as well as he’s doing. … I’m happy that he’s off to a good start in his young career.”
Not quite as surprised, necessarily, is Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, whose philosophy is to not sign homegrown players until they’re ready and have an opportunity to play. The speed at which Yedlin has picked things up, though, wasn’t expected.
Schmid credits that fast start to a good psychological balance in the young defender.
“You can’t be afraid of the new situation and the scenario you get put in,” he said, “but you can’t be overconfident about it either, because then you’re going to fail.”
And scenarios don’t get much more daunting than a first taste of a fierce 38-year-old rivalry.
• Midfielder Brad Evans (calf) and Johansson have been ruled out of Saturday’s game. Midfielder Mauro Rosales (back) and forward David Estrada (ankle) have practiced the past two days and will be game-time decisions.
• Sounders FC will host Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the home leg of a two-game CCL semifinal on April 2 at 7 p.m. The road leg of the series will be April 9 at 5 p.m. in Torreon, Mexico.