|Independence's Austin Yearwood emerges as homegrown talent|
|South Meck grad makes leap to USL|
|Published Wednesday, May 25, 2016 1:10 am|
|Charlotte Independence defender Austin Yearwood (right) played with the PDL Charlotte Eagles last year. Yearwood's professional debut was last week against the Eagles.|
Austin Yearwood’s professional soccer career begins in Charlotte.
A native Charlottean, the defender’s debut for the Charlotte Independence came against his former club—the PDL’s Charlotte Eagles—in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“Pro debut—always nice to get a win in front of fans, all of Charlotte—both sides, and play the full 90 [minutes],” Yearwood said last week after the Independence’s 2-0 win. “Independence has been preparing everyone from the first guy to the last guy. We’re always in the rotation so we’re always ready.”
Said coach Mike Jeffries: “Defensively, he’s good. He’s a strong athletic guy. He tends to be a pretty patient and composed defender and doesn’t commit rashly. Those are good qualities. It was nice to see him not only get his chance in the Open Cup, but also have a very solid game—a very good game defensively.”
When Yearwood was growing up, the opportunity to progress through the Charlotte soccer pyramid did not exist as only club, collegiate and the direct jump to USL Pro (now USL) existed.
“Growing up, [I was] always going to the Eagles games, and with them dropping down into the PDL, it gave younger kids—college kids—a chance to play for them as well, which is also a dream come true for anyone who grew up in Charlotte,” he said.
Yearwood’s work ethic has captured the attention of his current coaches and teammates.
“I’m enjoying working with him,” Jeffries said. “[He has a] really good mentality in terms of every day being prepared, being willing to push himself. He’s gotten to the point now where he’s reliable, he fits in [and] he can play quickly. He gives us nice balance in that he gives us coverage both as a center back and left back—he’s probably most naturally a left back. I do feel like technically, his ability to get forward to serve balls, to make passes out of the back has grown in the couple of months that he’s been involved—it’s nice to see.”
Said defender Bilal Duckett: “He brings the kind of intensity to training that kind of makes you pay attention to him a little bit. He’s young and he’s naturally a little bit quiet, so he’s not going to be the loudest guy in the locker room, he’s not going to gain your attention that way, but everybody is acutely aware of him, because he’s been playing well for us. He’s learning the position. Some of the older guys like myself, Henry [Kalungi] and [Patrick] Slogic are trying to help him along, as well as some of the other guys—he’s learning very quickly.”
Starting 74 of 77 appearances at High Point, Yearwood finished his collegiate career with one goal and 17 assists. In 2015, he made first team All-Big South Conference, and the second team in 2013 and 2014. After transferring from Myers Park High to South Mecklenburg, he scored 14 goals and tallied 35 assists. He played club for Charlotte Soccer Academy and was a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team Residency Camp in 2009.
“It is rare for a player to get the opportunity to represent his hometown team as a professional,” Eagles coach Dave Dixon said. “[He’s a] great person, and deserves this great opportunity. I think he will develop into a very good left back in the USL.”
Said Duckett: “He’s similar to myself in that he’s quick for a center back, but he’s also not a big, bulky center back who is just going to run through everything. He’s had to learn a couple of the tools of the trade, like don’t try and fight someone who weighs 50 pounds more than you. Just kick the ball away and move on. He’s been doing really, really well. He’s pushing the level at practice every day. That’s the kind of stuff that propels us forward.”
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