- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

U.S. Soccer doesn’t seem to have any idea who David Yelldell is. Brad Friedel promised to take care of that.

“I will speak to [U.S. under-23 national team coach Glenn Myernick] when I get a chance to and see if he’ll have a little look at [Yelldell] because he’s definitely worth having a look at,” said Friedel, the U.S. national team’s starting goalkeeper.

Yelldell, 21, is the recently signed No.3 goalkeeper for Blackburn Rovers. What makes Yelldell intriguing for U.S. soccer fans is that he holds dual citizenship — his father is American, and his mother is German.

Hence, Yelldell, who was raised in Stuttgart, Germany, is eligible to compete on the U.S. Olympic soccer team at next year’s Games in Athens. If Blackburn Rovers think he’s good enough to play in the star-studded English Premier League (it’s called the Premier League for a reason), then Yelldell certainly should be considered for the U.S. Olympic team.

“No, I haven’t spoken to anybody [at U.S. Soccer]. I don’t think they know about me,” Yelldell said. “It’s a goal for every soccer player to play for a national team.”

Tonight at RFK Stadium, fans may get a glimpse of Yelldell when D.C. United takes on Blackburn in an exhibition. Friedel, who was the United States’ starting goalkeeper during last year’s historic run to the quarterfinals at the World Cup, will start in goal tonight for Blackburn and then possibly give way to Yelldell sometime during the second half.

The goalkeeping pool for the U.S. Olympic team is rather shallow. D.J. Countess of the Dallas Burn is penciled in at starter. Countess’ backup on the Olympic team is Doug Warren, United’s rookie backup. Only players age 23 and under compete at the Olympics.

It’s conceivable Yelldell could go head-to-head against Warren tonight if United coach Ray Hudson decides to use his backup in this friendly.

“When’s the Olympics? Next August? I think he’d be more than ready for that if [U.S. Soccer] wanted to give him a look,” Friedel said.

If Myernick wants a different dimension in goal, so to speak, then Yelldell is his guy. At 6-foot-4, Yelldell is as tall as Friedel, who was named the Premiership’s top goalkeeper last season. Countess, meanwhile, is 6-1, and Warren is 6-0.

Rovers signed Yelldell on July 14 and paid about an $180,000 transfer fee to Yelldell’s former club, Stuttgarter Kickers, a German Second Division team. Yelldell spent time on loan with Blackburn at the end of last season and impressed Rovers’ technical staff.

Yelldell backs up Friedel and Irish international Alan Kelly, the son of former United goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly Sr. At 34 and nearing the end of his solid career, Kelly may want to switch clubs to get playing time because Friedel is Rovers’ unquestioned starter.

“I’m going to throw [Yelldell] in as soon as possible. We have [FA Cup] games quite early in the season, and I’m going to throw him in and let him show me what he can do,” Blackburn manager Graeme Souness said.

With world-class strikers Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke firing shots his way every day in practice, Yelldell will gain invaluable experience this season with Blackburn.

The first thing Friedel and Souness mention about Yelldell is his athleticism and quickness. According to Friedel, Yelldell just needs “to get his feet wet.” He undoubtedly will learn as he goes along.

“I’m very happy to work with a goalkeeper like [Friedel] because I can learn a lot, and I have to learn a lot here,” Yelldell said.

Yelldell’s ultimate goal is to play for the U.S. national team. He knows the easiest road to play in the World Cup is through the United States rather than Germany.

He plays in the right league now. The rest is in U.S. Soccer’s hands.

“I hope [Myernick] recognizes that there’s a young keeper with an American passport out there, and I have no problems if he invites me in for a training session,” Yelldell said.


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