By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
After D.C. United's 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, even those closest to Joe Vide had a hard time accepting that he had broken open a scoreless match just before halftime with a hefty swing of his right leg.
"You mis-hit that ball, didn't you?" needled his father, who traveled from North Carolina to RFK Stadium to witness Vide's first goal in three MLS seasons and only the sixth in a college and pro career spanning seven years.
"I never would have thought I would score," Vide said two days later. "I know I'm not really a threat."
What Vide is known for is disrupting opposing playmakers and inspiring counterattacks, not one-timing a moving ball from 20 yards into the right side of the net -- a goal that helped square United's record at 10-10-1 heading into Saturday's home match against one of his former clubs, the New York Red Bulls.
If not for a summer injury crisis, United might not have acquired Vide off waivers on July 16 and almost certainly wouldn't have thrust him into the starting lineup four of the past five games. But with six ailing regulars and periodic suspensions further depleting the roster, Coach Tom Soehn has paired Vide, 24, with Clyde Simms in defensive midfield to fortify the club's central resistance and complement the attack.
As their time together increases, "the understanding gets better. They know when to cover for each other and they have the ability to read each other," said Soehn, who has used the tandem both with and without a playmaker in front of them.
Vide's journey to United's lineup -- and to MLS, for that matter -- was hardly conventional. He was born in Fort Worth, brought up in Raleigh and, after completing his freshman high school season, accepted an invitation to join the youth system of 1860 Munich, a German second-division club overshadowed by European power Bayern Munich.
At age 14, he was on his own, living in an apartment near Olympic Stadium, hurrying off in the morning to a private school paid for by his parents and later taking a train to practice each afternoon.
"It taught me to grow up fast," he said. "Moving to another country, not knowing the language, playing in a big system, it was hard but it was a great opportunity."
He became fluent in German, trained in a serious setting and, as a benefit of living in Bavaria, attended several of Bayern's Champions League matches.
After his senior year, he said he was in discussions with the club about a contract, but "my parents were really pushing me toward college," he said. Having not played in any first-team or reserve games, Vide had maintained his amateur status. Through U.S. regional team connections with the University of Virginia coaching staff, he committed to the Cavaliers and enjoyed a productive, if understated, four-year career.
Passed over in the four-round MLS draft in 2006, Vide was selected by New York in a subsequent supplemental procedure. He played sparingly as a rookie, but made 13 starts last year. Unprotected in the expansion draft, Vide was selected by San Jose last winter. However, he made only two starts and five appearances for the Earthquakes -- "I didn't play well and it just didn't fit," he said -- and was waived.
He considered looking overseas for an opportunity, but within a few days, undermanned United claimed him. Having lost Brian Carroll in the expansion draft, D.C. was in need of another deep-lying midfielder with experience. Vide was initially added to United's 18-man senior group, but when the club needed a slot for new goalkeeper Louis Crayton, his roster status was dropped to developmental and his salary from $33,000 to $17,700.
"I knew there were no guarantees," he said. "I was just happy to be picked up and happy to be playing again."
United Note: The club is looking at several roster candidates, including French forward Ismael Ehui, who was with English club Fulham. Others are from U.S. second- and third-division teams.