DeAndre Yedlin hopes to bring energy and selflessness to FC Cincinnati

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DeAndre Yedlin had heard rumblings of a potential move from Inter Miami CF going into what would end up being his last game with the club. He had spoken with his agents and had a weird feeling as The Herons defeated Orlando City SC, 5-0. 

When he learned he was headed to FC Cincinnati, though, he saw the change of scenery as not only an exciting new adventure, but also an opportunity. He says he is taking it as he does all of his other career moves—with an open mind. 

Yedlin spoke with Matt Miazga and Miles Robinson about their time in Cincinnati, and they reassured him he was in good hands. His wife came on the initial visit to Cincinnati. She expressed joy over the new surroundings, with Yedlin saying it reminded her of her parents’ hometown in upstate New York. He referred to Cincy as a good place to raise a family as he brings his one- and two-and-a-half-year-old with him to the Queen City.

But ultimately, all of that was just reassurance. Deandre Roselle Yedlin, born in Seattle, Washington, plied his trade in Seattle, England, Turkey and then Miami, and wanted to be in Cincinnati. 

"Being able to work with this staff and these players, to be at this club, which really cares about all these players, it's a great feeling," Yedlin said at his introductory press conference Tuesday about what attracted him to FCC. The team has been one of the strongest teams over the last couple of years. So I'm just really excited to get integrated into the group and see what the culture is all about." 

A participant in two World Cups and countless other tournaments for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including winning the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League, Yedlin's talent is clear. As a right wingback, he fills a position of need while also being one of the premier talents in MLS since returning in 2022 after a tenure with Turkish giant Galatasaray. 

But what sealed the deal for general manager Chris Albright was the person he was adding to the group more than the player. 

"(Yedlin is a) player whose career clearly speaks for itself," Albright said. “A player whose quality, experience, athleticism and leadership are all welcome additions to our team. But one thing that kept coming back when we did our homework, speaking to players, coaches and teammates on DeAndre is the person, the character, the father, the son. All the things that we really value, we think, are just going to be invaluable to our group."

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Yedlin carries himself with an effortless level of cool. He jokes about feeling weird calling himself 30 years old now, smiles brightly and reverberates positivity. He speaks as confidently and assuredly as someone with 80 national team caps and over 280 professional appearances would. But his calmness and humility speak louder than any boisterous self-promotion could. 

That mindset extends onto the field. As a wingback, a position that head coach Pat Noonan's offense focuses highly on in both its offensive chance creation and defensive scheming, Yedlin is set to play a vital role in the tactical dynamic. In 2023, for example, the only player who provided more total attack assists (meaning any type of pass that led to a shot) than the two wingbacks was Lucaino Acosta … who was the league MVP.

"I know how important that position is and how much value the team puts on it," Yedlin said. "I think for any player, you obviously want to be in a position of value. 

"(But) I like to think of myself as a pretty selfless player. I don't care if I get a goal or assist as long as the team's winning. That's all really all I care about. So, I try to be as much of a leader as I can and really put my team before myself. I think that's probably the most important thing.

I just want to work with everyone, work together as a team, and all move in the same direction as one."

At Inter Miami, Yedlin was the vice-captain and led The Herons before and during the media storm that ensued when a certain Argentine and his friends arrived. While Cincinnati is a tad quieter, the expectations are as high as ever. Yedlin's leadership and performance are expected to play a role in reaching those high expectations. FCC believes they have the roster to win every competition they play this season and aim to do just that. 

As a player, Yedlin is uniquely situated to slide directly into the roster. As a wingback, a rarer specialty than a central midfielder, the USMNT regular is positioned to fill a need instantly. His skills as a wingback mirror the style Noonan and his team want to play with. 

"I think I fit in great. (FCC) has a very distinct style of play, but I think the type of player that I am fits that style," Yedlin said. “I'm very energetic … so I just try to be very vertical, get up and down (the field), get in behind defenders, and then be a menace on the defensive side.”

Behind the Number 

In breaking traditional soccer numbers, Yedlin has opted to wear the number 91 on his shirt, an homage to his uncle, Dylan Walton-Yedlin, who wore the number as an American Football player at Division III Union College in Schenectady, New York. DeAndre was raised by his grandparents, and Dylan was only nine years his senior. Still, he served as an important role model to the youngster.

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"My uncle, who's basically like a father to me, wore 91 all through his football career," Yedlin explained. "For me, it's a pretty special number." 

DeAndre shared that he also has a picture of him and his uncle on his left forearm, showing the two – with DeAndre as a youngster – standing side by side with his uncle, both wearing Dylan’s number 91. Now, at FC Cincinnati, DeAndre can make that tattoo true in a new way by making it so both Uncle and Nephew – or father and son to DeAndre – wear the number 91. 

"I've always played with a number that has two in it, whether it be 2 or 22 or 20 or 24," Yedlin shared. "But this will be the first time that I have a number that doesn't have that and I think it kind of marks a new beginning and a clean slate, so I'm excited." 

TQL Stadium is Tops

Yedlin is no stranger to TQL Stadium, and he's seen just how supportive it can be and just how scary it can be for visitors. 

As a member of Inter Miami CF, Yedlin remembers the crowd being hostile and unfriendly to visitors; after all, the wingback played in the now painfully remembered 2023 U.S. Open Cup semifinal matchup at TQL Stadium last August.

But he's also seen the supportive side as a member of the 2022 World Cup qualifying World Cup qualifying roster that played Mexico at TQL Stadium and earned a memorable 2-0 victory that has been remembered fondly as "Dos a Zero." 

"First and foremost, the fans," Yedlin remarked about what stands out most about TQL Stadium. “It was great support. When I was with Miami, it was, you know, quite hostile to play here. But when I was here with the national team, they had unbelievable support for us. That was, first and foremost, as a player, I think it's super important."

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Yedlin also highlighted that the enclosed nature of the stadium and the superb grounds create a better playing surface and cultivate a more European-style atmosphere. He is intimately familiar with this, having played at big clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Newcastle, and the aforementioned Galatasaray, which he has described in the past as the most intense of the group. 

"It's a beautiful stadium," Yedlin said in closing. "I just think that the atmosphere that's created there … you don't get that everywhere. So I'm excited to be able to experience that."

DeAndre Yedlin is just another piece of the puzzle that makes FCC a contender in 2024. His contract, which runs through 2026, means he will be in Cincinnati for a while to set the tone. His impact on the pitch can be explained and measured in tangible ways (depth, rotation, etc.). But what may make him even more of a steal of an acquisition is the man FCC is getting off the field and in the locker room.