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RISING: DeAndre Yedlin

Fans that have followed DeAndre Yedlin’s rise have seen him sport a number of different hairstyles over his still young career. They’ve also seen him play with a similar confidence to great effect on the field, for both club and country.


The routine began about five-and-a-half years ago. Every day before a home match, DeAndre Yedlin pays a visit to his barber. In Newcastle upon Tyne, his go-to spot is Made in Kay’s Barbershop, which sits just a few blocks from St. James’ Park, DeAndre’s home stadium for the past two years.

“Got to keep it sharp,” DeAndre quips.

Yedlin and a few of his Newcastle United teammates stop at Kay’s before every home game. He’s actually been coming here since he was playing at Sunderland, introduced by teammates of his former club just down the road. 

But the superstition-of-sorts didn’t begin in England. It got its start when DeAndre moved from his hometown of Seattle to Akron, Ohio for college.

“I couldn't really get any kind of crazy cuts in high school, so I kind of just let go when I got out,” Yedlin told ussoccer.com, noting that his school had a strict dress code. “I'm a creative guy, so I say ‘whatever’ and go with it.”

Fans that have followed DeAndre’s rise have seen him sport a number of different hairstyles over his still young career. They’ve also seen him play with a similar confidence to great effect on the field, for both club and country. 

GALLERY: The Many Hairstyles of DeAndre Yedlin

In late March, the 24-year-old became the 53rd player to reach 50 career caps when he helped the Men’s National Team defeat Paraguay 1-0 in a friendly in Cary, N.C.

Six weeks later, the speedy right back made his 34th Premier League appearance of the season as the Magpies’ closed out the year with a 3-0 win over Chelsea. It’s a mark only three other American field players have ever reached: Geoff Cameron with Stoke City, and Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey with Fulham.

“Obviously people see that I express myself, and sometimes people don't like that,” he admits. “But I think the Newcastle fans do. They know that I always give 110 percent on the pitch, no matter what. I'll do the dirty work for every single one of my teammates if that means that we can win.”

Having just completed his second season with Newcastle, Yedlin has always taken his chance when opportunity knocks.

FROM SEATTLE TO AKRON TO BRAZIL

Born in Seattle, Washington, DeAndre was raised by his grandparents – Ira and Vicki, or as DeAndre calls her, ‘Goddess’ – since he was one year old. His uncle, Dylan, was also influential in his upbringing and a major part of his life.

Only 10 years his senior, Dylan introduced DeAndre to a variety of sports, including soccer, at an early age. By his mid-teens, Dylan had shifted his attention from soccer to football, using his size to play defensive end in high school and eventually in college.

Naturally, when DeAndre got to high school, he wanted to be like Dylan, so he gave football a shot. But he faced a major challenge.

“He was five foot tall and weight 103 pounds,” Ira giddily recounts of the diminutive running back. “When he was a freshman, they gave him number 86. And the Jersey was so big or he was so small, when he tucked it in, it looked like he was number double zero because the bottom of the eights were tucked down in his pants.”

DeAndre also wrestled his freshman year, but soon realized that the sport he excel in and enjoyed the most was soccer.

Once the decision was made, things began falling into place. And, as it turns out, at a relatively fast pace.

DeAndre was a sophomore in 2009 when Seattle Sounders FC joined Major League Soccer, playing before crowds of more than 40,000 fans. Already a promising youth player, he joined the Sounders’ Development Academy team ahead of his senior year.

“The big conversation on sidelines in American soccer that parents talk about, ‘Oh, do you think he's good enough to get a scholarship to college,’” says Vicki, acknowledging the family’s goal for DeAndre at the time. “At least at that point, people weren't thinking their son might be a professional soccer player.”

When DeAndre was called in to a U.S. U-18 camp, he caught the eye of Caleb Porter, then the University of Akron soccer team head coach who was assisting that YNT camp.

Having trained with the Sounders’ professionals, and with Division I college scholarships on the table, DeAndre began to think he could have a future in the game.

Louisville and Virginia had offered full-ride scholarships, but Akron’s could only cover a portion of his tuition. But the Zips were coming off a National Championship, and had just had seven players selected in the first round of Major League Soccer’s annual college draft.

“Obviously if you wanted to be a professional, Akron was the school to go to at the time,” Yedlin said. “So I'm happy I made that decision.”

After two seasons at Akron, he was offered a homegrown contract to become a professional with his Sounders FC in January 2013.

He signed and wasted no time.

A preseason injury to the team’s starting right back opened the door for Yedlin, and he grabbed it with two hands, starting the season opener and 30 of the team’s 34 games as a rookie. In the meantime, he also caught the attention of U-20 MNT coach Tab Ramos, who selected Yedlin for the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup team that summer.

“At that point, my confidence was so high,” he said. “I was playing every game for Seattle. I think I was just kind of on a cloud and I wasn't coming down.

“Obviously you have your club and it's great. But then to represent your country, to be one of 23 guys called into to represent your country at a World Cup. That's when it was kind of like, ‘wow, what's the next step?’”

That question would be answered in early 2014, when Yedlin was called in the Men’s National Team’s annual January Camp, making his debut against Korea Republic.

He made one more appearance – as a sub against Mexico – before then-MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called him in to the MNT’s pre-World Cup camp.

“I was thinking, all right, maybe he's just kinda calling us in to give us the experience, show us what it's going to be like, give us that hunger, that motivation,” Yedlin recalls. “And I remember we were all in the locker room and guys just started coming in one by one by one and just said, ‘good luck.’

“I was counting the numbers and I realized there was 23 left and then at that point it was like, wow. And then Jurgen came in and said, ‘congratulations, you guys have all been picked to go to the World Cup.”

He walked out of the room and called Dylan, knowing he would call his grandparents with the news.

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF SUCCESS

“I feel like I should have felt a lot different than I did,” DeAndre says of his making his World Cup debut against Portugal. “I don't know why, but at that time it was just like it's just another game. I didn't think about the stage of it, and I think that is probably the reason why I did pretty well. I don't know why it wasn't going through my head at that time, but it was just like, ‘OK, it's another game with the national team and just do as well as you can.’”

Less than two years after turning pro, he had appeared in three World Cup matches in Brazil. He thought he was mentally prepared for the windfall that would follow.

A number of European clubs came calling, and a month after the World Cup ended the 20-year-old signed with Tottenham Hotspur, joining the London club in January 2015.

Things, however, did not go as he imagined.

“I think London was the first time in my career where I really went through a hard time,” he said, having made one appearance for Spurs that spring. “Obviously I wasn't playing. I was away from my family. I was in a massive city like London where you can get lost – both literally and mentally, you can just get lost.”

The momentum he’d been building in his soccer career appeared to come to a halt.

That summer, Sunderland expressed interest in taking him on loan from Tottenham. They were fighting relegation - they were not a ‘top six’ club. Still, DeAndre felt it would be a chance to fight for playing time and earn his place, so he took it.

The stint started off well, but soon came a blow. In a match against Watford, Yedlin was pulled after 20 minutes, with no explanation. He was out of favor, again.

“I didn't play for about two months,” he said. “I was just training and I started getting that depressed feeling again, that rock bottom feeling again. And I said, ‘no, I'm not going through this. I need to do something to get out of this.”

That something was found on Amazon.

DeAndre went on the online marketplace and searched for books about success, and bought the first one that popped up, titled ‘Maximum Achievement.’

“Every word that came out of that book, I felt like the author was speaking straight to me because I could relate to everything he was talking about,” he said.

One of his takeaways from the book was to set goals for himself, starting from small and immediate, to big and future goals. And little by little, he began to see progress. First getting minutes off the bench, then a start, then becoming Sunderland’s first choice right back again.

Knowing he needed to work on the mental state, he had another decision to make that offseason. His loan had ended, and he was back at Tottenham again knowing there was little chance of breaking through.

At the same time, Rafa Benitez, who took over at Newcastle toward the end of previous season, wanted to sign DeAndre. In fact, he’d had Yedlin on his ‘watch list’ for a while.

“A long time ago we were watching some games and we were watching the right fullback, who was really, really fast. Before he signed for Tottenham, we saw him and I was impressed. I called my assistant, and said, ‘look at this player, how quick.’ And since then we have been following him.” - Newcastle Manager Rafa Benitez on the first time he saw Yedlin play.

Newcastle had just been relegated, and they were Sunderland’s biggest rivals. Still, it was a big club, with a massive following, a huge stadium, and big-time coach who wanted him. He signed a multi-year deal, aiming to be part of the club’s – and his own – rise.

A NEW BEGINNING, A NEW ROLE

In their first year together, Benitez and Yedlin took the team back up to the Premier League, and this year cemented their stay with a 10th place finish in the top flight.

Off the field, Yedlin has found his way again.

He has his own house, a gated two-story with plenty of room for his visiting grandparents and his English Bulldog, Simba. On his walls hang framed jerseys he wore in college, with his clubs and the national team. Going on 7-8 months growing out his braids, he’s also launching his own clothing line soon.

“It kind of feels like I've settled here, and that's a great feeling. A lot of people don't realize that that can play a huge part in your performance and mentally.”

He’s a mainstay in Benitez’s XI, though not yet the finished product. Having won numerous European titles and coached some of the biggest clubs in Spain, Italy and England, the manager who noticed Yedlin years ago is now helping the speedy outside back reach his potential.

“We are working now on his first touch, so he can make better crosses,” Benitez said. “It’s just (teaching him) to use his strength, and I think he understands that and is working on that. And he will do better because he knows that he has the potential to do better.”

Passion❗️❗️❗️⚫️⚪️⚫️⚪️

A post shared by DeAndre Yedlin (@yedlinny) on

‘Rafa’ also praised how well DeAndre has embraced this opportunity.

“He’s a nice lad and he's always happy,” Benitez said. “I think everybody loves him, and the fans, to see someone that is working hard and also with his pace and going forward and creating chances for his teammates with his crosses, I think they appreciate him.”

Still only 24 years old, DeAndre makes no apologies for how far he’s come.

“In a way, yes I am lucky,” he says. “In a way, without those opportunities I don't get the chance. But you also have to look at the fact that if you don't take those opportunities and you don't make the best out of them, then I'm not where I am today. And I think that's what my career has kind of been built off of, taking the opportunity when I need to.”

He’s been the only World Cup veteran called in to the two most recent MNT camps, taking the field against Portugal, Paraguay, Ireland and France alongside teenagers making their senior team debuts. So he’s accepts that he’s no longer the ‘young guy’ with the MNT.

“When guys come into camp and are looking up to you and asking you for advice, it's kind of crazy because I was doing that just a year ago, two years ago,” he said. “But, obviously now that there's a younger generation coming through, I've kind of had to take on that role and it's awesome. I think it even helps boost my game because it keeps me in the game and keeps me thinking, ‘what would I do in this situation?”

And just as he never imagined playing in a World Cup only three years out of high school, he knows there’s always someone nipping at your heels, waiting for their window to open

“It's that sort of thing where nobody can ever be comfortable and that's what I've tried to preach to these younger guys,” he says. “We're friends obviously, but try to take my spot because that only makes the whole team better. That's healthy competition, that's good competition and that's ultimately, as a country, what's going to keep driving us forward and keep making us better.”


US Soccer

Sigi Schmid: A Coach, A Teacher, A Gentleman, A Friend

Touching tributes poured in on social media from all corners of the soccer community as news spread that Hall of Fame coach Sigi Schmid had passed away on Christmas Day 2018. And amid the sadness shared by so many who knew him, the messages also provided the rest of us a glimpse into the kind of man that Sigi was, and reminded everyone of the influence Sigi had on the American soccer landscape.

For newer fans of the game, Sigi will be remembered as one of the greatest of MLS coaches, leading the Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy to multiple trophies each. Older fans may recall the soccer factory he created while coaching UCLA to numerous NCAA Championships in the 1980 and ‘90s, churning out future U.S. Soccer legends like Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel, Paul Caligiuri, Joe Max-Moore, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and Chris Henderson, among others.

Sigi Schmid

It’s also important to highlight the impact he had with two teams he coached for shorter time frames: the U.S. U-20 MNTs that participated in the 1999 and 2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championships, each time advancing to the knockout stage while facing the likes of Argentina, England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Seven players from those U-20 teams would go on to represent the MNT at senior FIFA World Cups, while many others also had solid pro careers. And if not for Schmid, we may never have known some of those players. We caught up with a few from each team:

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1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup Championship:

While at UCLA, Sigi also assisted the MNT at 1994 FIFA World Cup and coached the following year’s Pan-American Games. In 1997, he was also coaching the U-18 MNT when he went to scout a player who had just played in the U-17 FIFA World Youth Championship and was playing for his high school in Southern California. However, as Carlos Bocanegra tells it, there was a mistake on the published schedule and the team that Sigi went to see was not playing. Sigi stuck around anyway, and watched the promising football wide receiver, Bocanegra, play soccer for his Alta Loma High School.

“I think about that all the time,” the two-time World Cup veteran Bocanegra told ussoccer.com this week. “That was my break. That was my chance. He gave me the opportunity and I was able to take that opportunity. That’s how I was able to kick-start my soccer career – pure coincidence that he was watching my game that got mixed up and he saw me play.”

Schmid invited Bocanegra, a junior at the time, to a U-18 camp. The next year he continued his pursuit of the talented defender and recruited Bocanegra to join him at UCLA. Their bond strengthened when Schmid took over the U-20 MNT and made Bocanegra a key member of the USA’s 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship side in Nigeria.

That team also included fellow future senior World Cup players Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Nick Rimando and Chris Albright, as well as long-time pros Danny Califf, Nick Garcia, Cory Gibbs, John Thorrington and Taylor Twellman, who became one of the most prolific American goalscorers in the pro ranks.

“That World Cup, playing with Sigi, had a massive impact on me and ultimately convinced me that I needed to go pro,” said Twellman, who at the time was also contemplating if his future would be in baseball, where he also excelled.

At the tournament, the USA defeated an England side that featured Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch, fell to Shinji Ono’s Japan, and defeated Cameroon in group play before falling by a score of 3-2 in the Round of 16 to eventual champions Spain that included Iker Casillas and Xavi.

In the lead up to that tournament, Sigi broke from the past and brought the team overseas for training, including to Morocco for two games and on a two-week fitness camp in Germany, where the team stayed at a bed-and-breakfast.


Bocanegra in action vs. Argentina in 2003, a few short years after graduating from Schmid's tutelage. 

“He really tried to give us good experiences that he thought would help us later in our career,” said Bocanegra. “He always tried to set trips up around where we could watch games at a higher level and get experiences to challenge ourselves in different ways than was maybe common practice. He always wanted the best for the group and to give us the best experiences to try to better ourselves, not only on the field but in life and to become well-rounded in the game.”

As a reward for the hard work in Germany, Sigi brought the U20s to France to attend the 1998 World Cup match between the USA and Germany.

“Sigi had such a feel for the game of soccer, domestically and globally,” said Chris Albright. “He always communicated that we were putting on our nations colors and flag, representing the country. He drilled that in us that this was not to take it for granted, that it was not to be taken lightly.”

Like Bocanegra, Sigi introduced Albright to the National Team scene. Later he helped pick him up when things were not going well at D.C., trading for him in LA. At the suggestion of then MNT coach Bruce Arena, Sigi helped convert Albright from a forward into a defender, a move that later landed Chris on the 2006 World Cup team.

“He had an excellent ability to teach multiple positions; he could make me a better forward, wide midfielder, defender,” Albright said. “He could teach principles of different positions to help each player grow, and that teaching element in developing us at that time was unique.”

Twellman scored four goals in the tournament, good for third overall, thus becoming the first American to capture a scoring award (Bronze Boot) in a FIFA World Youth Championship.


Twellman accepts the Bronze Boot alongside then U.S. Soccer president Dr. Robert S. Contiguglia.

“When people talk about Sigi, they talk about his love of the game,” Twellman said, who a few months later would leave Maryland to sign with 1860 Munich in Germany. “But he was also a gentleman and was kind off the field. Every single one of us on that team, if we saw Sigi 3-4-5-10 years down the road…he always watched our games, even when he was not our coach. He was always willing to talk to us, showed interested in us, asked us about our lives.”

Now the Technical Director of MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, Bocanegra draws from those early experiences under Schmid.

“Even though we were young, he really tried to instill the professionalism in us,” Bocanegra said. “The detail, structure, organization – challenging us. He always made time to make people feel important. He never stopped, through college, through pros, was always available. He was pretty special.”

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2005 Under-20 World Youth Championship

A week after that 1999 U-20 tournament came to an end for the USA, Sigi also began his pro career, taking the helm of his hometown LA Galaxy for the next five seasons.

He returned to coach the  U-20 MNT in October 2014, having only a couple months to scout and prep players for January’s U-20 Concacaf Championship.

Two years earlier, Schmid’s Galaxy had eliminated Kansas City and veteran National Team player Peter Vermes from the MLS Cup Playoffs. After the game, Vermes recalled this week, Schmid approached him and told him he’d like to have him on his staff one day.

Fast-forward to fall 2014, a since-retired Vermes called Sigi and reminded him of that conversation. Schmid held true and invited Vermes to a three-week U-20 camp. After a week of evaluating, Schmid told Vermes he had earned one of the assistant coach positions.

“It was a great opportunity for me just to be around somebody like him with as much knowledge and experience that he had,” Vermes said, who enters the 2019 season as the longest tenured MLS coach, having taken the reigns of Sporting KC in 2009. “I already knew I wanted to coach for a long time, but what those experiences give you is like anything – when you first want to do something, you’re excited, you’re ambitious, you’re motivated, you’re all those things. But sometimes you lack the confidence. For me, Sigi gave me a direction that I felt comfortable with because I had gotten a chance to see a lot of different things that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t get that chance to be with him and spend all that time, and the preparation, and everything. It was a great experience.”

Schmid’s first friendly was in November in Ft. Lauderdale. Due to College Cup, some would-be regulars were not available, so Schmid called in four new players, including UCLA speedster Marvell Wynne, who had never been called to any YNT camp before.

“I think I should have been more in the moment with everything that happened,” Wynne admits. “When I got called in I remember thinking ‘these guys are way better than me.’ But Sigi kept calling me back. When he said I made the team, I was definitely shocked.”

For a mid-December camp Schmid called in 30 players, including UCLA walk-on midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who also had never been on any Youth National Team. Like Wynne, Feilhaber also made a formidable impression.

Wynne and Feilhaber were instrumental in helping the USA qualify for the

2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship three weeks later.

Let’s back up for a second. Sigi’s sons also played college soccer in the LA area around that era. And, family man that he was, he would always attend their games, first Kurt’s at UCLA, and later Kyle’s at UC-Irvine.

“It’s what jump-started my entire career,” said newly retired 12-year pro Brad Evans. “The only reason I made that U-20 team is because Kyle Schmid transferred to UC Irvine. Without Kyle transferring there was absolutely no reason for Sigi to come watch UCI play.”

Schmid had spotted Evans that fall at UCI, but it wasn’t until after the U-20s had qualified for the World Cup that he called in the versatile player to his first National Team camp at any level.   

Vermes explained how Sigi gave the preliminary roster to rest of the coaching staff and told them that they could each make a case for one player to either be replaced or be added. 

“A lot of guys in that position would never consult the rest of staff,” Vermes said. “I thought that showed a lot of security and confidence on his part, to know what his decisions were but also want to know what his staff’s decisions were, and ultimately to make the best decision. There’s no doubt that that has helped me, and I would say that a lot of the players that were identified are players that are still playing or who had great careers because they were identified correctly.”

Wynne, Feilhaber and Evans were on the final 21-player roster, along with Jonathan Spector, Sacha Kljestan, Lee Nguyen, Freddy Adu, Chad Barret and Eddie Gaven, among others who also had solid pro careers.

The team shocked the world in the tournament opener, defeating Argentina 1-0 thanks to a Barrett goal assisted by Wynne. It would be the only loss and shutout suffered by the South Americans, who won their next six matches en route the lifting the championship trophy with future international stars Sergio Aguero, Lucas Biglia, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando Gago and Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, Lionel Messi.

2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
2005 U-20 MNT vs. Argentina
Chad Barrett, who would go on to play professionally under Schmid in MLS, scored the game-winner vs. Argentina at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.

The 20s then played Germany to a scoreless draw and defeated Egypt 1-0 before losing 3-1 to Italy in the Round of 16. The experience and exposure provided opportunities to a number of players.

Feilhaber would soon sign with Hamburg, and later would score one of the best goals of the USA’s rivalry against Mexico, helping the MNT win the 2007 Gold Cup. And despite interest from international clubs, Wynne and Evans returned to school. Wynne became the top pick in the next MLS SuperDraft and Evans was selected 15th overall the following year by Columbus’s new coach, Sigi Schmid.

“He means more than I can really describe,” Feilhaber said, who along with Spector also made the 2010 FIFA World Cup roster. “Getting that opportunity with the 20s led to everything else in my life. I have no idea if I would have become a pro. I know I would not have been as successful financially, [and] going to Europe that early helped me immensely as a player. I don’t know if I would have ever played on the National Team let alone in a World Cup. I’m really grateful for Sigi having that keen eye and for giving me that opportunity.”

Sigi not only gave Evans his international debut and professional debut but would also bring him to Seattle on their way to spending 10 pro seasons together.

“He was the pivot for me in my entire career,” Evans said. “You have youth coaches, parents, but if you want to talk about the person who I’m able to talk about 12 years later and say I played professionally because of them…yes, it comes from within, but you have to have someone who pushes you and really believed in you, and Sigi was the guy for me.”

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REFLECTIONS:

Sigi’s memorial took place on Friday, Jan. 18 in Los Angeles.

In March 2017, after more than 300 MLS games and having also represented the USA in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 Confederations Cup, Wynne’s career came to an end after undergoing a heart procedure.

When he came to from the operation, one of the first voicemails he listened to was from Sigi Schmid.

“Sigi was the reason I became a pro,” Wynne said. “He got me on to the scene, kept me there, had confidence in me and he kept me going. In terms of coaching, it was more, ‘get the basics right and perfect them.’ He was the first one to hammer that home, and if you ever saw my career, it was basic.”

A reflective Wynne made a special trip to an LA Galaxy game last year to meet up with his former coach.

“We talked about my heart situation, and caught up about everything,” Wynne said. “And I told him, ‘you’re the reason I went pro.’ I was able to tell him face to face, but I hoped he knew.”

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“Yea, the opportunity, experience and all those other things were great, but the best thing for me, to be honest, was that he and I became friends after that 2005 Youth Championship,” Vermes said. “We always, always talked and kept in touch and spent time with each other. We had a very good relationship.”

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“I sense that he knew what he meant to me,” Feilhaber said. “The way that we spoke was not in a way that most coaches to ex-players do. We were friends - he understood how much of an influence he had on me. We had respect for each other, and I’m going to miss him a lot, but it’s so important to have these memories about him.”

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“We talk about a coaching tree a lot, but Sigi’s got the player tree, the coaching tree, the soccer tree really,” Bocanegra said. “So many people spiraled off the opportunities he gave them. Through soccer he gave so many people their start. But the biggest part that everybody remembers is that he cared about each and every person. He wanted to get the best out of them, and did not give up. He would give second chances, third chances - if you were his guys, and you worked for him he was going to his damndest to get the best out of you and make you a better player or person in general.”

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“When I think back on it, especially the last couple of weeks, we always talked about getting the ‘Sigi shirt-tug,’” Evans reminisced. “Once he got a hold of your shirt and put his arm around you, there was no getting away from it. But I remember him being very honest with me in everything. He never blew smoke up my tail or thought that I was better or worse than I was. He always believed in me. We really trusted each other when it came to soccer and had an unspoken relationship that just worked. It’s something that I’ll cherish and remember forever.”

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