It is said that hard work, self-confidence, and perseverance delivers results. For Sam “Sammy” Vines, the Rapids defenseman from Colorado Springs, his dedication to the game was evident yesterday during his 77 minutes of play in the USMNT friendly. In the 20-year-old’s first cap (and start) for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Vines helped his fellow young Americans’ team defeated the Ticos of Costa Rica 1-0 in Carson, California before a crowd of 9,000+ sun-drenched fans.
In December, Yanks’ Head Coach Gregg Berhalter recruited and fielded the youngest senior team ever in advance of the Men’s U-23 Concacaf Olympics qualifying tournament scheduled for this March. The squad’s average age was 23 years and 77 days and they played well—especially Vines in the backfield.
Vines, the first Rapids Homegrown Player to win a roster spot on the senior USMNT, earned praise from USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and current General Manager of the Colorado Springs Switchback Football Club and Rapids Senior Director of Soccer Development, Brian Crookham.
Vines started his youth soccer development and play with the Colorado Springs Pride Soccer Club. He transferred into the Rapids youth system as a 13-year-old in 2013 and played with the Rapids’ U-15, U-16, U-18, and U-19 Development Academy Teams.
Per his Colorado Rapids’ bio, the then-youngster made his presence known with his new club during his years in the Academy:
- Made 63 appearances for the DA, scoring eight goals
- Named to the U-17/18 US Soccer Development Academy Best XI for the Central Conference
- Earned the 2017 Rapids Academy Player of the Year
- 23 US Youth National Team call-ups
On February 23, 2018, he became the seventh Rapids’ DA player to ink a first-team contract and was subsequently loaned out for most of the season to the USL’s Charlotte Independence. Vines logged 2,303 minutes over 28 games, 25 of which he started. During the same year, he made his MLS debut with the Rapids against the San Jose Earthquakes. Last season, he became a fixture in the Rapids backline and many assume he will be the starting left back this year.
On January 5th of this year, Vines and Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis reported to the IMG Academy in Florida to join Berhalter and his staff at the annual U.S. Soccer January Training Camp.
Vines spoke with Rapids DA Coach and USMNT legend Marcello Balboa about the call he received from Berhalter, inviting him to camp to win a position on the team’s roster. Vines details the rather humorous telephone conversation:
Later today, Sam Vines will make his senior international debut when the #USMNT play Costa Rica ... something he could only dream about before receiving a phone call from an unknown number. #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/pOBdRKVtMH— AltitudeTV (@AltitudeTV) February 1, 2020
On Thursday, Vines learned that his hard work in camp had earned him a starting position in the starting XI against the Ticos. Gregg Berhalter described Vines and his future during a post-practice media conference:
.@ColoradoRapids Sammy Vines will be getting his first start & first cap for the @USMNT this weekend vs Costa Rica congratulations sammy !!! Thank for the video @MicheleG3 @AltitudeTV @corapidsfan @Burgundywave @RapidsAcademy @wearecosoccer @FlemingSport @CealeyGodwin pic.twitter.com/5tgqV1RcAJ— Marcelo Balboa (@marcelobalboa17) January 31, 2020
Against Costa Rica, Vines played the position in his trademark style: up and down the side of the pitch, in counter-attack mode, and delivering plenty of crosses into the box. MLS.com analyst Matt Doyle tracked Vines’ (#13) play along with his 18-year-old teammate Ulysses Llanez Jr, who scored the lone goal on a penalty kick.
Llanez & Vines did a really nice job of getting exactly where they wanted to in the first half – exactly where the system wants them to be – but neither could quite find the final ball. pic.twitter.com/d7TIOedIEq— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) February 1, 2020
MLS.com contributor Greg Seltzer graded Vines a 6.5 out of 10:
“Sam Vines (6.5) — The Colorado Rapids left back did an admirable job in his first cap. Vines didn’t hesitate to get forward to support Llanez and the Ticos created next to nothing down in his corner.”
Rapids fans should feel confident that this homegrown will deliver more of the same during the upcoming MLS season. And perhaps we will all see him representing the United States and Colorado in this summer’s Olympics in Japan too.