For the third time in seven days, Lewis had a major impact off the bench in an NYCFC win, setting up Jesus Medina to break a tense, goalless draw and help the Cityzens defeat Columbus Crew SC, 2-0, Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s that much fun to face him after 75 minutes and his running in behind,” NYCFC fullback Anton Tinnerholm said. “He’s made an amazing effort for the team, especially in these three games.”
Last Sunday, the third overall pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft set up Maxi Moralez’s winner against the Red Bulls when he pressured Aaron Long following an errant back pass from Tyler Adams in the 85th minute in his 14 minutes off the bench.
On Wednesday, Lewis scored in 23 minutes as a substitute, the third goal in a 16-minute span to put away the Montreal Impact.
Saturday night, Lewis was Torrent’s first sub, coming on for Ronald Matarrita in the 55th minute.
And again, the 21-year-old found a way to change the game. He intercepted a rare bad clearance from Zack Steffen and put his first-time shot off the post. Lewis followed his own rebound, took a touch around Jonathan Mensah and slipped a pass across the six-yard box to an open Medina, who settled the ball before firing home the only goal NYCFC would need.
“I said last week I’m very happy with Jonathan, but don’t forget it, never. Jonathan plays better when our team finds spaces,” Torrent said. “Jonathan is especially a player when we play against teams who defend high, it’s very important for us because you know he’s a fast player.”
Lewis said he was in a perfect spot to pick off the pass, but also admitted the team was told to defend deep in the second half so “if anything I probably broke what [Torrent] said to do,” he said with a smile.
“I knew to move into that space right there in the pocket because Wil Trapp normally goes into that space,” Lewis said. “I knew I had to come inside, but he just misplaced the pass and I was there.”
Lewis said former coach Patrick Vieira instilled a “relentless” attitude that Lewis takes with him into games and the training ground, as well. Torrent said he’s one of three or four players who stays an extra 20 minutes after training to work on crosses and one-v-one situations.
That effort in training is clearly being rewarded.
“He’s worked tirelessly all year and everybody realizes that,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “We just tried to keep him going and we knew when he got his opportunity that he’d step up. He’s been a really big part to our week, if not one of the most influential players that we’ve had. It’s good to see the young talent, him, Kwame [Awuah], getting an opportunity. These guys have really been putting in the work all year.”
In case his head was getting too big, Johnson and Saad Abdul-Salaam were there to put Lewis in his place. They both inserted themselves, and their phones, into the media scrum around Lewis’ locker.
It was seemingly the only thing this week to rattle Lewis.
“What’s wrong with you,” he asked. “Why?”
“Wipe your forehead,” Johnson quipped.
Lewis obliged and offered a “thank you” as his retort.
He might have grabbed headlines all week, but Lewis remains humble.
“Of course I have a little more confidence than before, but for me I have my goals and I want to try to get to the national team,” Lewis said. “Until I get there, I’m just going to keep working to stay level headed.”