The rise of Colorado’s Sam Vines could soon take another momentous step.
A Colorado Rapids Homegrown just four-and-a-half years ago, the Colorado Springs native will get a chance to earn a spot on the United States Men’s National Team’s World Cup roster with a strong performance Friday in Germany.
The 23-year-old left back was named a starter ahead of a 6:25 a.m. MDT kickoff on ESPN against Japan in Düsseldorf in the USMNT’s penultimate tune-up ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar.
If Vines can deliver confident, steady play at left back to shore up the position as a backup, a seat on the plane to Qatar just might be his. With Fulham’s Antonee Robinson, the presumptive No. 1, out with an ankle injury, the Pine Creek High School grad is competing with 19-year-old Long Island native Joe Scally for one of the last spots on the 26-man squad.
“For me personally, it’s just to try and play in the games and show what I can do,” Vines told Sirius XM Radio host Jason Davis on Thursday. “Yeah, grow the confidence that I’ve gained from the season back in Antwerp. I think the whole team’s excited for these two games and if the results are good, we’ll be happy heading into the World Cup.”
Since making his national team debut in 2020, Vines’ stock has risen significantly, but particularly since the start of the European season in late July. He played a key role in last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and made a few World Cup Qualifying cycles. He hit a lull in November’s window and had not been called back to the USMNT until this month.
Vines got back onto the radar with a strong start to his club campaign with Royal Antwerp in Belgium, where has not missed a minute of league action, completed 85% of his passes and has had staunch defensive showings. It all amounts to a calm and confident player ready to seize his moment. Royal Antwerp is top of the league with an unblemished record of 9-0-0.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter believes he’s seeing a wholly rejuvenated Coloradan.
“What I’ve noticed from him in particular is the speed of his decision making. It’s gotten better, it’s improved,” Berhalter told the media Thursday. “He looks a lot more sure of himself. He’s been aggressive coming down the left wing and cuts inside a little bit with his club sometimes and that gives him some flexibility. But I see a confidence in Sam Vines.”
One of his back line partners on Friday will be Walker Zimmerman, the Nashville SC captain and stalwart center back. Zimmerman said the competition between Vines and Scally has been healthy and both have plenty to prove on why they should make the final roster.
“I’m really excited for those two guys in particular,” Zimmerman said Wednesday. “They’re players that might not have been extremely happy with how they performed in their last cap, but have shown their mentality is there. … Even on the first day of training, to see them both be confident, take risks and not be on the back foot based on their recent performances with the national team, they’re in really good form and I am excited for them to get this opportunity.”
Following Friday’s game, the U.S. will have one final match ahead of the World Cup opener Nov. 21, which will be Tuesday, Sept. 27, at noon against Saudi Arabia.