Age at MLS Cup: 32
Hometown: Leersum, Netherlands
2020 IN ALL COMPETITIONS
On March 1, 2020, Vito Wormgoor took the field in Columbus in his expected starting role as Jonathan Mensah’s center back partner. He played a terrific game as the Crew beat New York City FC 1-0, despite Vito suffering yet playing through a broken rib in the process. The rib would keep him out of the next game in Seattle…and then the world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. When play resumed in July in the Orlando bubble, Wormgoor was healthy and back in the lineup. He broke his ankle just 17 minutes into the first match against FC Cincinnati. Like Adam Moffat in 2008, Wormgoor was an opening day starter who was lost for the year and saw his backup thrive in a run to the MLS Cup title.
The Josh Williams story of 2020 surely doesn’t play out as prominently as it did if it weren’t for Vito’s bad luck. Josh is quick to point out, however, that Vito was still very much part of the championship team. Josh also knows his minutes are going to be harder to come by in 2021, as it’s a new season and every minute will have to be earned in competition with a group of talented center backs, including a healthy Wormgoor, whom he truly admires. “I like it that way,” Josh tells me. “It’s got to be that way.”
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“Vito’s the total package. We didn’t get to see a lot of him this year, but when he’s out there, he brings everything. He’s good on both sides of the ball. He’s one of those guys where it looks like the game is going a little bit slower for him in terms of how he’s reading things. He’s reading the game faster than everybody else, so it seems like the game is slowed down for him. And he’s just an absolute beast defensively. He can’t wait to get into a tackle. And then he can spray a ball and is so composed on the ball. He’s just so poised all the time. A great leader.
“As good as he is on the field, I was even more impressed with him off the field. Vito has a very intimidating look about him, so when you see him, you expect him to be a hard-ass and a tough guy. And I think if you ever get stuck into a tackle with him, you’ll figure out exactly how tough he is. He’s an absolute beast, but off the field, he is a calm, poised, and caring presence. He’s such an impressive person. He always brings the right mentality. I’m such a fan of his.
“He’s such a good player that I think everyone was impressed by the type of player he is, but for those who don’t get to see him every day like we do, I think people should notice the type of guy he is. Good friend, good teammate, and just a very caring individual. I’ve been hugely impressed with him.
“He was gone for parts of the season because they allowed him to go back to the Netherlands to heal and to be with his family. There’s a period where after you have surgery, you can’t really do a lot, so you might as well go back and spend time with your family. I’m sure he was worried about his family. His wife had just given birth to their fourth daughter. I think it was cool that the club let him do that. When he’d come back, he’d be around and you could tell he was embraced by the team. Everyone was glad to have him around because we enjoy having him in the locker room. He’s always positive and always has good things to say. He’s a very wise person and you can tell he does a lot of thinking. He hardly ever speaks without thinking about what he’s saying. When he speaks, everybody listens. Part of it is that he has a big presence, so when he talks, guys are intimidated, and they all just shut up. (laughs). But really, everyone has a good relationship with Vito. He’s just a guy you want to root for and have a good relationship with him. If your locker room has a lot of Vitos in it, then you’re in a very good position. He’s always asking questions and making sure that everybody’s good. It’s not small talk. He truly cares that everyone is in a good place. He’s happy for everyone’s success.
“Whenever we would talk, it was mote life stuff. I do remember one talk we had right before we went to Seattle in March. He had broken his rib in the opener. I remember us talking and we were saying we weren’t sure if going to Seattle was a good idea because of the virus. I remember him being concerned about his family. Looking back on it now, I think everyone was trying to feel each other out (about the virus) in the locker room. Like, should we be doing this? We went out there and played and then the world shut down right after we got back. But I remember Vito and I were talking and he was worried about his family because he was a long way from them. His wife was taking care of four girls and they’re back home a half a world away. You could tell he cared about them so much. But I was so impressed with him because he was always so poised in those moments. He always had the right thing to say. He is kind of like a Wil Trapp. The moment never seems too big for him. He always has wise advice about a problem. There are certain guys that have that quality and Vito is one of those guys. I like being around people like that. When you’re around someone like Vito or Wil Trapp, there’s a just a quality that those guys possess where it’s like they are prepared for every moment and always have the right thing to say.
“His season ended three (team) games into the year and he handled that situation and was always positive. You could tell he cared about how the team was doing and for everyone’s success. So hats off from me for how he handled that. We can’t wait for him to get back in 2021. He’s such an asset to our team. He’s going to make everyone else better and make our team better.”
[NOTE: To see a clickable list of earlier installments of this Josh Williams series or other MLS Cup related posts, please click HERE.]
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