Van Vleck Brothers United in Soccer Success
UNITED: Jonathan, David and Stephen Van Vleck Help Lead Toledo-Winlock Squad into Districts
By Matt Baide
United finished the regular season undefeated in 1A Trico play and lost only one game all season.
The Toledo-Winlock combo squad is a competitive group, exemplified most by two players that are hard to tell apart and a younger brother waiting for his time to shine.
Jonathan and David Van Vleck are seniors for United. Not the flashiest players or the best shooters, dribblers or passers — but the epitome of the type of player a winning team needs.
“I just want to win,” Jonathan said. “Anything I can do to help my team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Jonathan and David started playing soccer about 9 years ago. Influenced by their dad, it was all they wanted to play once they got their first taste.
“One day, my dad came up and said, ‘Hey, you guys want to play soccer?’” David recalled. “So we joined a team and started playing ever since.”
Jonathan had a similar memory.
“We just played the first year and liked it so much because we got first place in a tournament,” he said. “We said this is fun, because you get the adrenaline going and the competitive spirit. It’s a lot of fun.”
Their younger brother, Stephen, is overshadowed by his two older brothers this year, but trying to learn as much as he can to prepare himself for when he does get a chance for more playing time.
“It’s a great experience to watch my brothers play their final year,” Stephen said. “I’ve learned a lot from the coaching staff this year.”
United coach Horst Malunat sees Jonathan and David as quiet leaders of the team.
“They’re not the most vocal, but they definitely lead by example, and they were a natural pick to have as captains this year,” Malunat said. “As far as the core group, I don’t have a lot of seniors, and those two are irreplaceable as far as this year goes with the chemistry. They’re not vocal — it’s not a bad thing, but they definitely lead by example.
“If you’re put in the right situations and you have the right leadership qualities, you can learn to be vocal when you have to be, and I think they’ve learned that,” the coach added.
David is a part of the United defense, which has 10 clean sheets to its name this season. David noted that he prefers to play forward, but has accepted his given role.
“That’s where coach put me, I just wanted to play the best where coach put me. I always prefer to play up top, but I was good at defense, so there you go,” David said.
“He’s just tough to beat, him and Dawson Hall have done really well working together,” Malunat said. “Their communication is really good and they’re organized. I do have to say, we have 10 shutouts, which is nice, but before it gets to the goalkeeper, we’re organized and hard to unlock.”
Jonathan plays in the midfield, and teams will see him all over, leading the attack or coming back to defend scoring chances or corner kicks. He’s been a big assist player for United, as he draws defenders and has the ability to find the open man.
“The assists are easier, I just draw people in and see, ‘oh he’s open, kick it to him. Oh, we got a goal.’ That works for me,” Jonathan said.
His ability to play all over the midfield and break down defenses has been a perfect fit for United.
“Whether I play him on the right or the left, up top, he’s always dangerous, but now, if teams are worried about him, now they’ve got to worry about Gustavo (Barragan), maybe Andreas (Malunat), maybe Nick (Patching),” Malunat said.
Last year, he added, teams could lock onto one player to slow up United’s offense; that’s now changed.
“We’re getting goals from a lot of different people. We’re pretty dangerous to stop in that regard and with Jonathan, if we didn’t have him, maybe we wouldn’t be scoring as much.”
Ask the three of them which is the best soccer player, and you’ll get three different answers.
The twin brothers have never played against each other, but their competitive sides come out when they play against each other, whether that be kicking a soccer ball around the house or playing a game of FIFA ‘15 on the Xbox 360.
“It’s the worst with each other,” David said. “We don’t like to lose. We’re competitive.”
Jonathan and David were a part of the United team that won the district tournament last season and faced University Prep in the first round of state, which wound up a 2-0 loss for United. That experience has only motivated the Toledo/Winlock combo squad for a run through this year’s district tournament and, hopefully, spurs a run deep in the state tournament.
Neither Jonathan nor David could have predicted the team would be this good.
“I was kind of expecting a flop, but you put enough hard work in, and it will turn out good,” Jonathan said.
“I knew we’d do well, I just didn’t think we’d do this well. I think we have really good chemistry on our team,” David said. “Everyone wants to work really hard for each other and we just like to play soccer.”
After finishing the regular season undefeated, one of United’s goals this season, the next step is to win the district tournament, as United did last season. United will face the winner of White Salmon and Elma’s first-round game on Thursday at King’s Way Christian in Vancouver.
Jonathan and David both want to end their soccer careers on a high note, and want to win the district title again, and win at least one game in the state tournament, though a state title is the ultimate goal.
“The fact that we got knocked out in the first round? I want to get past the first round,” David said.
United is in prime position to make a run deep into the state soccer playoffs, and the taste of state soccer last season has fueled this team throughout this year’s campaign.
“We got there and fell apart. We were doing so well and that state game, I don’t know what the deal was,” Davis said. “It stuck with me.”
With the team chemistry between Jonathan and David, and the talent on the rest of the United team including Barragan, Patching, Malunat, Brandon Cruz, Dawson Hall and Alan Contreras, to name a few, this could be the year United plays at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner with a title on the line.
“I have no idea, I don’t know, we just work together as a team, I can’t explain it; it just works,” Jonathan said. “We’ve been playing together for awhile, I guess that helps. We know each other, we know what we’re going to to do.”
“I think we’re just working for each other,” Stephen added. “Concentrating on just playing hard because we just love soccer.”
Note: Neither Jonathan nor David have plans to play soccer after high school. Both are in the Running Start program, and Jonathan is planning on majoring in kinesiology at Western Washington University, while David is planning on going into nursing.