ussoccer.com: Tell us about your background.
David Yelldell: “I was born in Stuttgart. My mother is German, and my father is American. He was in the military in Germany. I was raised in Stuttgart.”
ussoccer.com : Have you visited the United States?
DY: “Many times. I have visited my father on vacation in Atlanta, but I have never lived there.”
ussoccer.com : Were you aware at all that you were on the radar of the U.S. National Team?
DY: “Not really. Several years ago I played with Blackburn, and back then U-23 coach Glenn Myernick came and visited me. That was the first time that I knew I had been scouted. He watched a few trainings and a reserve game, but in the end the team didn’t qualify for the 2004 Olympics. That was the last time I had contact with the national team. To play for the national team, first you have to play well in your club, and I wasn’t playing in Blackburn, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear from them.”
ussoccer.com: How did you wind up at Duisburg?
DY: “Last year was not a good year for me. Koblenz got relegated, and I was injured for almost six months, first with a knee injury and then an ankle. I had no contract and I had to look for a new club. Duisburg contacted me, and it was an easy decision because they are big club. They had a lot of expensive players, but those players didn’t have the right mentality. Everyone from the fans and the coaches were frustrated, and they wanted to build a new team. I wanted to be a part of that. So far it’s been a good decision.”
ussoccer.com: Duisburg has had a surprisingly good season …
DY: “It was not expected that we would do so well. The DFB Cup is very big in Germany, and we have reached the final and are playing against Schalke, which is a local rival. This will be the game of the year for us. We had been pushing to go up [to the Bundesliga], but I think our squad is too small. When you look at the other teams at the top, they have a lot of players on the squad and they can rotate a lot. After the Cup semifinal, a lot of our players got a little tired and we lost two or three games straight, so I don’t think we can finish in the top two. We have a lot of young players, and if you have two or three players get injured or suspended it’s not so easy for us to compensate. At the start of the season, no one imagined we would have a chance to be promoted. Our goal was to build the foundation for the coming years to make promotion possible. At the club, we have a stadium and training facilities that are good enough for the Bundesliga.”
ussoccer.com: What kind of fan support do you have at the club?
DY: “Our fans are fantastic. It’s a difficult time in Duisburg because there is a lot of unemployment, and it’s not so easy for people to be able to afford a ticket, but they still support us and we want to give something back. This year the team has gotten a lot closer to the fans. I think they see that everyone who is in the team fights and gives everything they have. We don’t win every game, but we try and we never give up. They don’t have it very easy in life, and they want to see you are giving everything for the club. This year has been very good for everybody.”
ussoccer.com: Fighting for the team and never giving up – that sounds a lot like the U.S. team. Have you always been a fan?
DY: “I’ve always followed the U.S. team when they play in the World Cup. What I have seen is always positive. They have good individual players who play in big teams in Europe, and I think the main characteristic is their fighting spirit and togetherness.”
ussoccer.com: As you have moved through your career, had you ever felt that playing for the U.S. National Team was a possibility?
DY: “Not really, because I haven’t had the type of career where you could expect this. When I was 19, I played in the eighth division in Germany, so it wasn’t like I progressed early. I always worked hard, because my dream was first to reach the Bundesliga and then you never know. I just try to give everything and make myself better.”
ussoccer.com: It probably also hasn’t helped that the U.S. has always had great goalkeepers.
DY: “Yes. I follow this because it’s my position. This has always been a position in the United States where they have no problems, so it’s not easy to get recognized as a goalkeeper. I have always said that Brad Friedel was my role model. I watched him for two years at Blackburn.”
ussoccer.com: Describe how you found out that you’d been called in.
DY: “We had a game in Karslruher that we lost 3-1, and the next day after training we had a meeting to analyze the game. Afterwards, our goalkeeper coach asked me to stay behind. I thought he wanted to talk about the game, but he said congratulations because I had received an invitation from the U.S. for this training camp and the two games. At first I couldn’t believe it, and I was very excited. We lost the game, but my day was much easier after that.”
ussoccer.com: What has your experience been like the first couple days?
DY: “It’s been great. Everybody makes it easy for the new players to come in. I can only say positive things. I’m very proud to be here.”
ussoccer.com: Why proud?
DY: “You always watch games on TV, and a lot of players have the dream to be with the national team. I am one of them now. I know I haven’t played yet, but I think it’s an achievement to be recognized by the coaches and get an invitation to come to camp. I just want to show what I can do.”
ussoccer.com: when you put on the shirt with the U.S. crest for the first time, what was going through your mind?
DY: “I was born and raised in Germany, but I have always felt a little bit a part of the U.S. When you live your whole life in Germany it’s a different mentality and lifestyle, so it would be false to say I feel more American than I do, but I am proud and happy to be here. The players here are great, and there are a few that speak German, so I feel very comfortable. I want to train well and get to know everyone here better and enjoy the opportunity.”