Jonathan Lewis misses out on U-20 World Cup, but finds time with NYCFC

NEW YORK -- If the past few months played out differently, Jonathan Lewis and Yangel Herrera would be sharing the field Sunday in South Korea. Instead, Lewis was left off the US squad for the U-20 World Cup that will face Herrera’s Venezuela in a quarterfinal showdown.

It wasn't meant to be, and Lewis understands that.

“I wanted to be there but at the end of the day this is where I wanted to be the most,” Lewis said Saturday after New York City FC defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1 at Yankee Stadium. “I feel like that’s fuel to the fire but it’s not the fire. I want to be here and watch our team win and be successful like we were today.”

Lewis was a part of Tab Ramos’ squad for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, helping the US win the tournament and qualify for the current U-20 World Cup. However, injuries and a lack of playing time at his club saw him fall out of favor on the national team. Saturday’s appearance was only Lewis’ second since NYCFC traded up to draft him third overall at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

Lewis came on in the 79th minute with City trailing the Union. He took on Fabinho and successfully created space by dribbling at him on the right wing. Jack Harrison had had success doing the same earlier in the game and Lewis said that motivated him to do it, too.

“Jack inspired me and when [Ronald Matarrita] came on, I saw how he was playing out of position and how hard he worked running at the guys. I saw that and when I got my chance, I was just going to run at the guys and keep going.”

Lewis created an opportunity with a clever cutback in the 83rd. A minute later, he forced a corner then kept the play alive, eventually resulting in Alexander Callens scoring the game-winning goal. It made Lewis’ first appearance since March 18 a good shift.

NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said he gave Lewis an opportunity after he impressed him in training over the last ten days.

“All credit to him because he’s been working really well,” Vieira said. “He needed the opportunity to show that he is working well and he had it today. When he came on he gave pace, he was really direct and when Jonathan is like that, he can give a lot of problems to defenders. At the same time, he needs to develop himself and we need to give him time.”

Lewis said he’s become more humble as he learns the ropes of the professional game.

“I’ve just been keeping my head down and not talking as much," he said. "I’m just listening to the older guys, the vets. I listen to the coaches and take everything they taught me and try to work on that.”

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