SAO PAULO, Brazil — DeAndre Yedlin probably isn’t going to start at right back against Ghana in the U.S.’s first World Cup game Monday. But he knows what coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants him to do if he winds up in the lineup — attack.
“A big part of this team is outside backs getting forward, especially because we are playing so compact,” he said Friday. “So we need to put them outside. So, that’s the main thing … to attack.”
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Sounders FC defender has forgotten his other responsibilities on the backline.
“We are defenders first so, (it is important) to block all crosses coming in,” he added. “If they can’t get crosses in, then it’s going to be a lot harder for them to score goals.”
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Yedlin and the other American defenders received a reminder on how loosely referees might call some fouls in the penalty area during Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Croatia in the World Cup curtain-raiser Thursday. Brazilian striker Fred went down in the box after minimal contact by Dejan Lovren. That turned into the winning penalty kick by Neymar in the 71st minute.
“For a defender, it seems to always be a penalty,” he said. “But that’s just the way it goes. The ref made the call, so that was brutal for them.”
Indeed it was.
Many observers felt Fred pulled a fast one on the referee and got away with a dive. But the 20-year-old Yedlin considers that “part of the game.”
“You’re always going to try to get an advantage,” the graduate of O’Dea High School in Seattle said. “You always want to win. So any way you can get the advantage, then you’re going to that. Whatever he did, whether he dove, it got him the call and got the win.”
Still, the controversial call did not take away from Yedlin’s enjoyment of the match.
“It was a great game to watch. It was exciting,” he said. “It was nice to see the atmosphere. It was pretty incredible. It was only 10 minutes away from the hotel.”
The Americans are stuck in Group G — aka Group of Death — with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Every team reached the second round in South Africa four years ago.
As of Friday morning the team hadn’t started to concentrate on Ghana, which it meets in Natal. Ghana eliminated the U.S. in the past two World Cups.
“Right now, we are honestly really focused on ourselves,” Yedlin said. “We haven’t done video prep on Ghana, yet I’m sure we will do that soon. But right now we are just focused on the 23 that are in here and focusing on what we can do to win the game.”
For the most part, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Yedlin said he hadn’t thought of any of the other group matches.
“I don’t know if the coaches are, but personally I’m not because I’m just focused on us,” he said. “I’m focused on what we’re going to do obviously. With a guy like (Portugal’s) Cristiano Ronaldo, you have to do a little work. He’s a great player and everybody here is (too), but I think when you start to focus on other things like that, when you get a little bit distracted. It can take away from your game.”
The Americans began their in-country journey flying into Natal on Friday afternoon. They will fly 8,800 miles, the most by any of the 32 teams.
Yedlin did not see it as a hindrance.
“Nothing special,” he said, “especially being from the MLS. We have to fly a lot of places, anyway. So this is pretty normal for us.”