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  • Writer's pictureRichard Fleming

An American in Antwerp: Get to know Sam Vines

Royal Antwerp fans may get a first glimpse of their American signing, Sam Vines, when the Belgian club tackles Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus on Thursday in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League playoffs.

Vines, 22, arrived in Antwerp earlier this month and was an unused substitute in their most recent league game, a 1-1 draw at Charleroi last Friday.

For Vines, though the manner of his move was swift, his career path has been patiently plotted from an early age. He began playing football at the age of five, and his first club was Pride Soccer Club in his hometown of Colorado Springs, which is about 115km south of the city of Denver.

At 13 he moved to the youth academy of the Colorado Rapids, the Major League Soccer (MLS) team which Vines would eventually depart for Antwerp.

Despite his stature during those early teen years, Vines was quickly on the radar of the USA youth teams. He broke into the national U14 squad in 2013 and got an early taste of European football with a tournament in Italy the following year.

A regular with the US youth national side at various age group levels, Vines developed nicely at the Colorado Rapids, featuring for the U15, U16, U18, and U19 teams.

He signed professional terms in February 2018, inking a three-year deal, but was then sent out on loan to Charlotte Independence, a feeder team to the Rapids playing in the second tier of football in the USA.

Vines started 25 of his 29 appearances for Charlotte Independence that year and would make his Colorado Rapids debut in a friendly fixture against Argentine giants Boca Juniors on July 24, 2018. The MLS club came from 2-0 down to draw level at 2-2, before winning the game on penalties.

His MLS debut came in the final game of the 2018 season. The then 19-year-old came on at halftime in a 0-0 draw at San Jose Earthquakes in California.

Vines made his first start for the MLS club in April of 2019. Playing in front of former USA, Manchester United, and Everton goalkeeper, Tim Howard, the youngster went the distance in a 3-2 defeat at D.C. United in the seventh game of the season.

He was not a regular until teammate Deklan Wynne went down injured in June, allowing Vines to step in, secure his spot, and make the left-back position his own.

A quick, skillful player, who enjoys getting forward, his game blossomed under current Colorado coach, Robin Fraser, and he played every minute of the team’s truncated 2020 season. It was during 2020 that Vines scored his first professional goal, in a historic 5-0 win at neighbours and rivals, Real Salt Lake.

The year began brightly for Vines, as he made his senior international debut for the USA against Costa Rica. He has since made eight appearances under Gregg Berhalter and scored his maiden goal last month during the team’s successful run at the Gold Cup.

His move to Antwerp was always going to be within days of the USA’s Gold Cup ending; it just so happened that they went all the way, delaying his departure.

The Antwerp defender also represented the USA’s U23s in their unsuccessful bid to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In all, Vines made 53 league appearances in MLS, scoring two goals. His last game in Colorado came on July 4 against Seattle Sounders. Arguably one of his best performances came in 2019, when he got the better of Mexican ace and former Arsenal and Real Sociedad striker, Carlos Vela.

On the personal front, Vines is one of eight children. He has five younger brothers, and two older sisters. He arrived in Antwerp with his English girlfriend, Jessica, though their dog Finley is waiting to join them.

He is quietly spoken, and not one for the trappings which come with being a professional footballer. Still adjusting to being recognized, Vines relaxes playing golf, bowling, or spending time with family and friends. As someone who prefers to allow his feet do the talking, Antwerp fans will be hoping that talking starts in Cyprus.

Name: Sam Vines Age: 22 (May 31, 1999) Born: Colorado Springs, USA Height: 5’10” Position: Left-back Previous clubs: Charlotte Independence (loan), Colorado Rapids

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