Payton Ritchey: Competition for places hots up as American ace DeAndre Yedlin impresses for Sunderland

DeAndre Yedlin in action for Sunderland during their 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light against West Ham United
DeAndre Yedlin in action for Sunderland during their 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light against West Ham United
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Since the close of last season, Sunderland’s back four has been a shape-shifting disaster with a mind of its own.

Centre backs Coates, O’Shea and Kaboul rotate in and out almost weekly, and Patrick van Aanholt (once the only stable and reliable member of the back four) has been rightly dropped to the bench after as string of alarming performances.

Surprisingly, Billy Jones has been arguably the most reliable. That’s part of why it was so interesting, then, to see him line up on the left against West Ham.

I wasn’t surprised to see van Aanholt dropped. His wayward defending and tendency to drop off the line in favour of reckless attacking was costing Sunderland far more than it was contributing.

This meant that DeAndre Yedlin was to make his Premier League debut on the right to cover Billy Jones’s shift.

I was, I’ll admit, nervous for Yedlin.

In September’s USMNT friendly against Brazil, he was part of a line that allowed four goals and looked vastly outpaced. Against West Ham, however, Yedlin started out on the right foot, making several key interceptions in the middle of the pitch and helping get the ball forward.

He looked far more assured and confident on the wing than Patrick van Aanholt has looked, and Jones upheld his decent start to the season with some pacy defending, smart deflections, and accurate passing.

Despite the rotation of the two centre backs, which will continue next week as Coates sees the bench for yellow card accumulation, I have confidence the situation at full-back is right where it needs to be between Jones and Yedlin. As an American, it’s always fantastic to see a fellow statesider succeed; but it’s so much sweeter when that statesman is contributing to points for Sunderland.

* This fan blog was written by #SAFC supporter Payton Ritchey.

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