Vang with Lao national team head coach Michael Weiß. Image courtesy of Michael Vang.
A new, exciting chapter is being written by and for Michael Vang in 2023. The Saint Paul native who made headlines by becoming one of the first pro Hmong-American players in history when he signed for Forward Madison FC for the 2020 season. Vang made history alongside his brother, Brian Vang, who played in NISA for Michigan Stars FC. Now, after a season with Columbus Crew 2, Vang is setting off on new adventures.
Vang was announced as one of several new signings for Portland Timbers 2 on March 2, 2023. The move comes after Vang played for Columbus Crew 2 in 2022, both clubs being members of MLS Next Pro. Vang made 22 appearances for a total of 750 minutes for Crew 2, scoring two goals and making two assists. The team went on to win the MLS Next Pro league title, Vang’s first major trophy in American soccer.
Vang joins a Timbers 2 team clearly looking to reinvent, having finished bottom of the western conference last season. Timbers 2 have a long history of operation, having played in the USL for years, but the jump to MLS Next Pro has been hard. Hungry, young players with some experience in the league, like Vang, could spell a change of fortune for the team.
The 2023 MLS Next Pro season is set to start on March 24. Timbers 2 will start play on the road to the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 26.
The exciting news doesn’t end there for Vang. Along with a new club, the midfielder also has a new opportunity at the national team level. Vang has joined the Lao National Team in their training camp, based in the national capital of Vientiane. The Lao National Team is set to play two friendlies against Bhutan and Nepal on March 22 and 25, with Vang in line to take part in those games.
Laos are very much underdogs in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), but the team are mainstays in regional tournaments like the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship and Southeast Asian Games, both of which focus on the premier talents of southeast Asia. Laos held a 3-1-6 WDL record in 2022, including a win over Mongolia and a draw against Myanmar.
Laos also, of course, take part in the qualifying campaigns for the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. While they have yet to qualify for either, recent attention toward talented players abroad reflects the national team’s interest in changing that trend.
An appearance in either friendly would be Vang’s debut. The qualification campaigns for both the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup will both start in October, 2023.