Winning connection

Sherando's Andrew Wade scored 20 goals and led the area with 16 assists this past season. Wade and teammate Tommy Buono have been named The Northern Virginia Daily's 2015 Boys Soccer Co-Players of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY – Tommy Buono and Andrew Wade remember the moment well, the day the two first met.

They were in third grade and Buono had just begun attending Orchard View Elementary School when future Sherando High School soccer teammate Jov Hall mentioned to Buono that a group of boys got together to play soccer during recess.

Buono, a relatively new student of the sport, was drawn in by the idea of playing soccer with his new classmates and soon met the “big shot” on the playground soccer field — Wade. From there, a rivalry formed.

“We really didn’t like each other at first,” Wade said recently as he and Buono took turns sharing the events that led to their first meeting that day in third grade. “It was probably like for the first year or so, we were just pretty different. I just remember Tommy showed up to recess — we always joke with him — but he had on some like tucked-in plaid shirt into some shorts and came out to play soccer at recess and I was like, ‘Who is this guy?'”

And it was more than Buono’s choice of soccer-playing attire that day at recess that caused a rift between the two. Wade was far more advanced in the technical aspect of the sport, Buono recalls, and neither agreed on their favorite professional footballer. Wade was a fan of Christiano Ronaldo, while Buono preferred Lionel Messi. Even worse, Wade said he felt Buono’s knowledge of professional soccer wasn’t genuine.

Sherando's Tommy Buono led the area with 22 goals this past season. Buono and teammate Andrew Wade have been named The Northern Virginia Daily's 2015 Boys Soccer Co-Players of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily file

“He would talk about professional soccer but I didn’t ever think he knew it,” Wade said.

But things changed between the two when they became club soccer teammates with Winchester United.

“When we started playing United we started getting better with our friendship,” said Buono. “We started hanging out more and we would just play soccer. We would just watch soccer videos and just freestyle, anything that had to do with soccer. And that was just what we did, soccer everything. Our mentality just all the way through our career, we just wanted to get better at being soccer players and we did it together.”

Well, almost.

The duo would go on to join U.S. Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) in different age groups — Wade was born in 1996, Buono in 1997 — and some of their travel soccer experiences took them to different areas as Buono went to Annandale and Wade went to Loudoun County.

But when it came time to play high school soccer at Sherando, the duo spent each spring on the pitch together.

During their senior year this past spring, that friendship — and the technical skill that each had amassed over the years — culminated in one of the greatest combined performances in Sherando soccer history. Buono and Wade teamed up for 42 goals and 27 assists during a 2015 performance that earned the duo the title of the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Boys Soccer Co-Players of the Year.

Buono and Wade were so equally effective on the field for the Warriors this season that even longtime Sherando coach Pat Anderson jokingly referred to the pair as twin brothers. At any moment during a match, Wade could dribble through a handful of defenders, frenetically zigging and zagging through the 18 to plant a shot into the back of the net, or Buono could flick a pass to himself over a defender’s head before floating a shot over the outstretched arms of a charging goalkeeper.

Aggressively feeding off what the other was doing on the pitch, Buono and Wade consistently generated scoring opportunities for the each other as their on-field chemistry reached its peak. In fact, the duo combined to score or assist on all but two of Sherando’s 71 goals this spring.

Anderson said the so-called “Wade-Buono connection” was rivaled in Sherando’s history only by the duo of Zach Franz and Nate Potter in 2001.

“Throughout the season it was like, ‘Who’s going to have the most goals at the end of the season?'” Wade said. “We kind of realized that. Before the season I had never really been like that. I’ve always just felt like I’m the playmaker, Tommy’s the goal scorer. But since I was playing up top this year I was like, ‘I need to score more goals.'”

Though Wade led the Warriors in scoring for most of the season, Buono ended up with 22 goals to Wade’s 20, marks that rank second and third in program history.

Buono, who was named the Conference 21 Player of the Year and shared the honor with Wade in the Northwestern District, finished his high school career with 48 goals, tying him with Franz for second place on Sherando’s all-time list.

Wade finished fifth on that list with 41 career goals but graduates having accomplished the rare 40-40 feat. His 40 career assists are the second-most in school history.

Both Buono and Wade were first team all-Region 4A North selections.

“We’ve always been known for defense here and then to have those two guys, it was my job not to mess it up, you know, let them go,” said Anderson, who added that both Buono (MCL sprain) and Wade (ankle) played through injuries late in the season. ” … Sometimes when people say they need to pass the ball more I’m like no they don’t, that’s their job is to be creative, and [I] let things go.”

The duo will again take different courses in their soccer careers this fall. Buono will attend American College of Marbella in Spain while competing with the school’s affiliated soccer academy, Marbella United FC, and Wade will attend Division III Wheaton College located about 30 miles west of Chicago.

Their graduation doesn’t mark the end of the Wade-Buono connection at Sherando, however. Both have younger brothers who started regularly for Anderson’s club this season, and Anderson said there is another young Wade who is a “pretty good player.”

“I told Tommy’s parents that they have to get to work to catch up over here,” Anderson said with a laugh.

Though Sherando’s season ended on a bitter note — the Warriors lost 2-1 to Charlottesville in a Region 4A North quarterfinal match that was called due to lightning with 33 minutes remaining — Buono and Wade said they graduated from Sherando High School with no regrets about their senior season.

“I think both me and Andrew and the whole team as a group accomplished a lot, and I know coming into the season we were pretty excited with the players we had,” Buono said. “We knew if we actually worked together and worked hard that we could actually do something and I still think that even though we ended like that, that definitely doesn’t describe our season because we could’ve definitely gone a lot farther than that. I know for a fact we could’ve. … But I think we had a great season and we did make a lot of relationships with everybody.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com