Kevin Paredes, nurtured in Washington, is thriving in the Bundesliga


Kevin Paredes wants to make one thing perfectly clear: He does not weigh 119 pounds.

“I swear, I see that everywhere on Safari and Google,” he said, laughing. “I was 119 pounds when I first signed with D.C. United. I’ve gained a lot of pounds since I was 16. I’m 145 now. So if someone could change that, that would be perfect.”

Paredes — a Northern Virginia native who will turn 20 in May — has grown in many ways since his leap to the pro ranks. A year after he moved from MLS to the German Bundesliga, he plays regularly for VfL Wolfsburg and, as a new World Cup cycle begins for the U.S. men’s national soccer team, is in the mix for a call-up next month or this summer.

The U.S. coaching staff had monitored him last year, but because Paredes did not play much, a World Cup roster slot was out of reach.

Since the German winter break, though, he has appeared as a sub in seven of eight matches, averaging 17 minutes and scoring his first goal for a club (9-7-6) sitting seventh in the 18-team league after finishing 12th last year.

Paredes’s value as a sleek — and, yes, still slight — winger has swelled since he made two appearances totaling 13 minutes upon his arrival in Lower Saxony just over a year ago. Wolfsburg paid a $7.35 million transfer fee, a modest amount by Bundesliga standards but a record for a United player.

This season, he has played in 13 of 22 league matches, starting once, and entered two German Cup games. Paredes, from South Riding in Loudoun County, is the only player nurtured in the D.C. area’s youth soccer community playing first-team minutes in a big-five European league.

“It’s hard to just throw an 18-, 19-year-old kid on a Bundesliga field, and for them to do that every game, I’m really grateful,” he said.

Paredes was among three D.C. homegrowns who rose through the academy together before signing contracts in 2019-20. Paredes made the biggest impact, appearing in 41 matches (28 starts) over two seasons and contributing three goals and an assist in 2021.

At different points last year, the trio ventured to Europe. Central midfielder Moses Nyeman, now 19, transferred to Beveren in Belgium, but after not playing the first half of the season, he is slated to join MLS’s Real Salt Lake on loan. Winger Griffin Yow, 20, is with Westerlo in Belgium.

Paredes’s transition to the Bundesliga took time. At 18, he was living by himself far from home and learning to speak a new language. It’s a trying situation that, over the years, has undermined the plans of some U.S. prospects.

“There is no family to put my hand on when I’m feeling down,” he said. “It’s just you. You have to do it yourself. You have to grind yourself. There’s supportive teammates, a supportive staff, but you’ve got to do everything yourself to get on the pitch. I’m thankful for having that for six months because it really helped me know I’m not in the States anymore. I’m not starting anymore. It’s time to work. And yeah, it’s starting to pay off.”

There was also adaptation to the qualities of the Bundesliga, which joins the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1 as the best circuits in not just Europe but the world.

“I turned into a man quickly,” Paredes said.

He has played on both flanks and at left back and filled voids in central midfield. Two weeks ago, he logged 37 minutes as a winger against Schalke — his most as a sub before missing a game with illness and returning Saturday for a two-minute stint against Köln.

Said Marcel Schäfer, Wolfsburg’s managing director: “He is young, hungry and full of development potential and therefore fits 100 percent with our desired player profile. Kevin is versatile, a strong athlete and has an exceptionally gifted left foot.”

The Bundesliga’s World Cup pause afforded time to visit family and friends in Virginia and tune in to watch the U.S. team place second in group play and advance to the round of 16.

As the ambitious USMNT exits the World Cup, the focus shifts to what’s possible

Watching from afar was “like a fire in me in how badly I wanted to be in that tournament,” said Paredes, whose one U.S. training camp appearance, in December 2021, ended prematurely because of an injury. “Watching that gave me an extra push for this next World Cup cycle.”

He might receive an invitation to two Concacaf Nations League matches in late March. World Cup assistant Anthony Hudson is overseeing the team for the foreseeable future.

“It’s going to take some time, but I just know if I continue to do my thing over here, hopefully at some point it will come,” Paredes said. Meanwhile, he is a prime candidate for a U.S. squad heading to Indonesia in May for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Reflecting on his journey the past few years, Paredes said, “Playing one day at the RFK [Stadium] auxiliary fields [where United used to train] and the next day playing at Volkswagen Arena, it’s just crazy to even think about that.”

The adaptation to German life continues. He has a language tutor. “It’s going. It’s not going well, but it’s going,” Paredes said.

He has a car and apartment and learned to cook and do laundry for himself. He has formed bonds with U.S. contemporaries in Germany, such as Eintracht Frankfurt’s Paxten Aaronson, 19; Mönchengladbach’s Joe Scally, 20; and Hoffenheim’s Justin Che, 19.

There is also the matter of adding heft — and letting the world know his actual size.

Aside from the undercounted pounds, web searches “still have me listed at [5-foot-6],” he said, smiling. “I’m 5-8 and 145. So let’s get that out on the record.”

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