Yarbrough aims for Leon revival to spark USMNT return

William Yarbrough Leon
Azael Rodriguez
The goalkeeper won back the Leon No. 1 job & hopes the national team is next, though he hasn't followed the twists and turns of the coaching search

William Yarbrough is not a forgotten man. At least, he's not a forgotten man at the Cotton Bowl where throngs of Leon supporters welcomed his arrival on the field Sunday by chanting his name. He waved to the supporters, then saw out a clean sheet in a 3-0 friendly victory against Chivas.

There was a danger, even an expectation, going into the season that Leon fans would move on from the 29-year-old goalkeeper. Rodolfo Cota was signed with the idea the former Chivas shot-stopper would replace Yarbrough in net. He did, but things didn't go as planned for Leon and after a managerial switch, it's once again the U.S. international holding down the starting job for Las Panzas Verdes​.

There were reports this summer of a potential move to MLS after Cota was signed. Yarbrough, however, said he wasn't worried about the arrival of Cota, someone who is pushing him to improve as a man and as a player.

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"Obviously, Rodolfo is an excellent goalkeeper. I’ve known him for several years, since the Pachuca youth system," Yarbrough told Goal. "Whatever player comes to this club to make it better is welcome. In this case, the question of the goal comes up. The competition is really good. It makes both of us grow and makes sure Club Leon’s goal is in good hands. (The competition) is really important, that’s good. Personally, I’ve grown as a person and also on the field. As long as the competition is healthy like it is right now, it’s welcomed."

That competition also could help him win back a place in the national team. While Leon fans are still singing his name, Yarbrough largely has been forgotten by the USMNT.

Born in Mexico to parents from Texas, Yarbrough took part in El Tri youth camps but accepted a call-up to the U.S. senior side 2015. He played a pair of matches for the U.S. that year and saw time once more in 2016 but still is yet to play in an official match for the Americans.

Now, he sees fending off Cota plus the impending arrival of a new manager for the U.S. as a potential way to get back in the picture for the Stars and Stripes.

"I’m a person who lives in the day-to-day, who lives in the present. In the last few weeks, I got back the starting spot. Now the idea is to stay in that spot and with that the national team could come from there," he said. "I know that they’re watching me, but I have to be playing (with Leon) and getting positive results to be called to the national team again. Right now, I’m 100 percent focused on Club Leon, focused on my present here because I know that what I do here will determine if I’m called there."

Being focused on the club might sound like simply the right thing to say, but Yarbrough definitely seems to be turning out plenty of noise. U.S. Soccer men's general manager Earnie Stewart saying the next manager must speak English made headlines, and the loss of former U.S. youth players Jonathan Gonzalez and Efrain Alvarez has sparked debate about the federation's approach to wooing Mexican-Americans, Yarbrough said he hadn't heard of the English-speaking requirement until being asked about it Sunday.

Even so, Yarbrough, who is bilingual, said he has confidence in U.S. Soccer to make a strong hire who can take the national team back to the World Cup despite the delay in hiring a long-term coach.

"I think it’s a really intelligent federation. They’ve taken their time making this decision because they’re thinking about a long-term project," he said. "I applaud that, that they’re believing in the process, believing in the long-term. They’ve called in really young players, important players.

"What’s important is that whoever comes in has the time to work with the national team. If they have to speak English or not, that’s not my decision. Those decisions are made by the federation, by the higher-ups, but I’m calm in knowing that the decision they make will be the right one."