NYCFC's Vieira: Khiry Shelton has potential to be one of the best in MLS

PURCHASE, N.Y. – How good can Khiry Shelton be?

One of the best, according to New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira, but only if he can consistently perform at the kind of level he did during the second half of last weekend's 2-0 win over D.C. United.

“He was challenging every single ball, he fought, he worked really hard and he performed well,” Vieira said. “He scored a goal and was involved in a really good situation during the game.

"That has to be a reference game for him.”

Shelton, 22, has been at the center of NYCFC’s recent good fortunes with a goal and three assists in the club’s last three matches, including a goal and an assist against United.

Vieira has used tough love to motivate Shelton this season, regularly challenging him at training and suspending him for a game for a video that Vieira felt expressed “negative messages that don’t reflect the football club."

Vieira was pleased with Shelton’s response to the discipline and has an overwhelmingly positive outlook on his long-term future.

“Physically he’s really strong and he’s really good in the air,” Vieira said of the 6-foot-3 winger. “Technically, he has to work a little bit, but he’s really interesting. He’s got the potential to be one of the best players in this league, and he has to believe in that as well.”

Shelton, though, said he’s not too concerned about his potential or what he could become down the line. It's about the here and now. 

And after an injury-plagued rookie season in which Shelton had only one goal and one assist in 17 appearances, focusing on the day to day is vital to his success so far this year. 

“Me being on the ball is key for building my confidence," he said. "I’m able to display it on the field. As you can see my technique is getting better day in and day out. I just have to keep working on it more in training.”