DeAndre Yedlin may have suffered heartache yesterday, seeing the USA fail to qualify for next summer’s World Cup, however the attacking right-back is now considered his countries most reliable defender – believing Benitez’s ‘boring’ but effective training sessions have done wonders for his game.
As well all know, Yedlin has pace to burn and is an incredible athlete, being known last season for his electric bursts down the right hand side.
The American has admitted that he has previously relied upon his pace to bail him out at the back, however he now believes he is developing his defensive instincts thanks to Benitez’s help.
Here’s what he said to GOAL.com this week when asked if Rafa had played a big part in his development defensively:
“Massively. I think it’s one of the things that we work on a lot in training.
“It’s a bit boring, but you don’t really realise when you’re doing it as well, but when you get into the game situations, it’s much easier and things get slowed down for you and you see situations that you’ve seen before in training, so things just become much easier.
Benitez has been known to freeze training sessions mid-game in order to explain specific match situations to the players.
Although Yedlin may have found this to be tedious, he admits he now enjoys these sessions, believing he has become a better defender as a result:
“I enjoy it more now. Once you start to become OK at something, you learn to enjoy it more,’
“I don’t think I was the best defender before so it wasn’t fun for me. It’s getting better.”
He may be developing defensively, but it’s fair to say Yedlin’s strongest attribute is still his frightening pace. He admits it’s something that’s always come naturally to him, but has now learnt not to rely on it, with Benitez clearly working on his positioning:
“I’ve always been fast, it’s God-given talent,”
“I just try and use that to my advantage, but I’m learning more and more positionally so I don’t have to rely on my pace so much.”
A fascinating insight from Yedlin and something that has been evident in his development, with his defensive instincts having undoubtedly improved over the last 12 months. The latest example being his outstanding display against Liverpool, where he helped keep the likes of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah quiet in an energetic yet alert display.
He has the potential to become a very well rounded modern day right-back and if these comments are anything to go by, USA fans and pundits are also well aware of his rapid development defensively:
Yedlin's excellent USA display was testament to the tactical discipline he is learning under Rafa Benitez at Newcastle.
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) October 7, 2017
No player has improved more in the past 2 years than DeAndre Yedlin who has become a very good 1v1 & positional defender.
— Matthew Tomaszewicz (@shinguardian) October 7, 2017
A stellar 1st half by DeAndre Yedlin. Can't overstate how much better a defender he is now than a year ago. Has locked down right back spot
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) October 7, 2017
DeAndre Yedlin is an irreplaceable talent for #usmnt right now. No one else in the pool can do what he does for this team.
— SB Nation pleb (@japatrick200) October 7, 2017