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Sam Vines is poised to build on strong Gold Cup group stage showings for USMNT

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The U.S. men’s national team didn’t put in the best overall shift in Sunday’s 1-0 group stage finale win over Canada at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, but left back Sam Vines was one of few who did impress in the result in Kansas City. With another cap under his belt this tournament, Vines is hoping to keep taking positive steps forward as Gregg Berhalter’s side aims to advance further in the competition.

Vines has featured in two of the USMNT’s three matches to date, showing off his abilities in both the final third and on the back end. The Colorado Rapids Homegrown left back delivered a solid overall performance against Canada and now is preparing to do more of the same against Jamaica in July 25th’s quarterfinal showdown.

“We’re just going to take it game by game, we’re not focusing on the semifinals or finals right now, we’re just going to focus on Jamaica,” Vines said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters. “We’ve been training hard the last few days but that will ease up over the next few days as we start getting into our game plan for the weekend.

“I’m just doing anything I can to help my team,” Vines said. “Obviously we’ve gotten pretty good results along the way. We won our group and won all three games we’ve played so far so that’s good for that to happen.”

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The 22-year-old Vines has developed into one of the top targets within MLS, reportedly garnering interest from Belgium side Royal Antwerp ahead of the new European season. Vines has totaled 54 combined league appearances with the Rapids since debuting in 2018 and has now featured in five matches for the USMNT during Berhalter’s time as head coach.

Not only has Vines earned opportunities in the Gold Cup, but he is showing off what has made him a rising talent in MLS. Vines has delivered strong moments in the final third when the USMNT attacks, taking on opposing right backs and pushing himself into dangerous spots on the field to deliver passes and crosses into the box.

Defensively, Vines has done what he’s been asked to do and that’s help keep the opposing team off the scoreboard. Now he hopes to deliver another strong performance against a Jamaican side that the American have defeated in four of their last five head-to-head competitive meetings.

“We’ve been playing in a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2, whatever you wanna call, it and we like to cover as much of the field as possible and I think those formations help the backline cover a lot of width,” Vines said. “We’re just trying to join the attack as much as possible, obviously Shaq and I like to go forward, but overall we just have to do what’s best for the team.

“We know Jamaica has fast forwards and dangerous guys around the box, but we just have to focus on what we do best,” Vines said. “Defensively, we’ve been strong throughout the tournament so far with only one goal conceded, so we have a lot of things going well for us. We’re going to have to make it difficult for them.”

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Vines scored the winning goal in the USMNT’s 1-0 victory over Haiti in its first group stage match and helped spring the attack ahead of Shaq Moore’s early game-winner against Canada on July 18. While the USMNT may find it much tougher to score in the opening minute against Jamaica, Vines believes the team’s collective unity is key in Sunday’s knockout stage match.

“Our collective group effort has been good throughout the tournament, obviously against Canada we scored in the opening 30 seconds,” Vines said. “We need to do more of the same against Jamaica. We need to come out strong, hard, and as a team and if we do that then we should be able to come out with a win.”

Comments

  1. I am surprised at such a positive piece on Vines. Except for the goal, his play has been mediocre. Mo matter who was in front of him on the left wing, he did not combine well with them and defensively he was way too often absent, getting caught up-field often and totally out of any kind of position to defend. While he does not seem to be slow, he is not really fast either which makes his poor positioning even more of an issue.

    Reply
    • at a certain level of wings getting caught up or keeper/back giveaways, by about everyone back there, i begin discounting individual critiques for this being a systemic feature — not a bug — and something the coach wants. it would get fixed if we actually cared. we keep picking a type and clearly telling them venture forth at our risk.

      also, i tend to find the cold production stats more convincing than people complaining about pass completion rates. people act like they want backs going forward. i wish we’d stay home like italy but hey. but if i am sending them forth to create chaos shouldn’t i prefer goals and assists over passing or aesthetics? people love robinson on aesthetics and supposed ability getting forward. i think vines surpasses his 3-year production numbers in like 3 weeks. kind of like for all the smack talk long (pre injury) was the leading tangible goal creator and not the crappy backs who cannot defend stuck out there because they once helped a goal happen in 2014 but have a vague reputation for such efforts. we have to get some rigor about this.

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      • the fairer question, to me, is whether someone making mistakes at this type competition levels up to knockout round gold cup, WCQ, or beyond. we shall see. but then that needs to be compared to dest getting megged at LB every other game or robinson being lit up, or we’re not applying the same standard to everyone.

    • I think your description of the Haiti game is correct. However, I listen to three different podcast recaps and watched a couple recaps on YouTube and universally people thought Vines played very well against Canada. SofaScore has rated him our best player both matches. As IV took about 8000 too many words to say he’s not perfect but neither are Dest, Robinson, or Ream. And no John Nelson is not better than any of them either.

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      • it’s not just whether he’s as bad as some of the other options but also, if one is willing to get dinged on defense, whether his production of goals and assists this tournament makes him a more worthwhile risk-reward for those ok with taking risks. if you’re paying close attention we have some wingback candidates producing and some not so much. and it’s not who the reputations would suggest.

      • I will agree that Vines did better in the Canada game than vs Haiti, but I really was not impressed.

    • After watching the games I have to agree with you. I’ve not been impressed with Vines….but that’s true for most of the players called into this tournament. So far the only players who have improved their standing (IMHO) are Sands, Moore, & M. Robinson. The rest are either treading water (Not hurt or helped themselves) or confirmed that they don’t belong.
      IV is also accurate (to a point) that part if the problem is systematic due to Gregg. The formation, player selections (who plays where), & lack of prep/chemistry among the players is contributing to the Bad performances.

      Anyone who thought this tournament was going to be a cake walk after seeing the roster was fooling themselves. Most of our opponents in this tournament have the same squads that have been used in competitive WCQ and/or Nations League earlier this year. While Gregg’s choices have rarely played together and weren’t given any friendlies prior to the opening game. Add in the lack of creative talent & wide players in the squad and this roster was doomed to fail.

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