Reyna: Sands, Lewis "here to play" as NYCFC shift away from veteran stars

Claudio Reyna -- close up -- NYCFC

New York City FC are opening a new chapter this year as they shift away from a reliance on world-famous stars to emphasize youth and above all, the team over individuals, sporting director Claudio Reyna told ESPN FC in a recent interview.

With superstar striker David Villa – the first signing in NYCFC history – departing the club this winter to join Japanese side Vissel Kobe, the Cityzens find themselves without the type of global household names like Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo who led them into MLS. That’s because both NYCFC and the wider landscape are changing, explained Reyna.

“We made a strategic decision early on to bring in players that were recognizable and were known in world football,” Reyna told ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle, noting a “continuing inflation with salaries and transfer fees for the top-tier players” around the world today.

“But now I think we're in a different stage as a club. We've matured, and our fans are aware that more than anything they want to see a good team that gives 100 percent for the club and for the jersey. That's what excites me. That's kind of been our focus, and that's where we are today with this team.”

Reyna insisted that youngsters like Juan Pablo Torres, Jonathan Lewis and HomegrownJames Sands are staking their claims for significant roles in head coach Dome Torrent’s first full season in charge.

“They're here to play,” Reyna said. “You can see it already. In particular, Sands and Torres are professional players; they fit in and are competing to play. I don't think [Torrent] has any worry or issue to play those players.”

One of the top performers in the US men's national team’s January camp, Lewis has been a particularly tantalizing prospect for many NYCFC fans eager to see him given a bigger role at the club. Reyna agrees, albeit with a caveat.

“I think Lewis has gone from someone who perhaps didn't take responsibility in terms of why he didn't play to holding himself accountable now and demanding more from himself, not only in games but in training day in and day out," he said. “It's part of being a young player and growing up, and you could see that growth. I'm excited. I think he's come in after the Costa Rica game and the January camp looking really sharp.”

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