Jonathan Lewis shows promise, room to grow in first start for NYCFC

NEW YORK – Head coach Patrick Vieira and his players thought they showed well while facing adverse conditions in Saturday’s 10-man win. They thought the same about Jonathan Lewis.

New York City FC defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon despite being down a man for almost 80 minutes, and Lewis played a role in helping NYCFC pull out the impressive result. In his first start for the club, the 20-year-old rookie assisted on David Villa’s opener and had plenty of encouraging moments during a 72-minute shift.

It was all in all an impressive outing for Lewis – especially considering he had played just 22 minutes all season – and one that NYCFC thinks will help the youngster as he continues to adjust to life in the MLS.

“I think Jonathan had a terrific game,” said Vieira. “He worked really hard from the first minute and of course he has a lack of experience and [struggled] sometimes with his decision-making. But playing games like that, really important games, will make him improve and he will be a better player.

“He really did what I was expecting him to do. He worked really hard for the team, even when we went with 10 men. He worked as hard as anybody else on the field. With his pace, he helped us to stretch them. I’m really pleased with the game that he had.”

Lewis may have helped keep the Fire honest with his speed, but his biggest contribution came in the 47th minute. Lewis received a pass on the right flank on the play, faked a cross, and then found Villa with a left-footed low ball that the Spanish striker volleyed in with good precision. The pass itself was not great, but the ability to not force a cross and find Villa showed composure.

There were moments when Lewis could have done better, including an off-the-ball run that he took far too wide in the first half and another play that saw him take an awkward shot rather than keep possession. Still, he made a strong impression on his team and could earn more playing time in the future.

“It’s not easy to come in in what would be the biggest game of the season and notch an assist,” said NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “I think he was really good. He was really good for us. He did a good job of holding the ball up early, he stretched them, he was simple, and I think his talent showed. I’m really proud of him and how he played.”

Just how much more Lewis will be counted on remains to be seen, but the talented prospect has now demonstrated that he can deliver even in spot duty. For NYCFC, that is more than encouraging.

“It was amazing because he showed to people that he’s strong in the mind,” said Villa. “He doesn’t play almost nothing [prior to Saturday], and comes into the most difficult game of the year because of the rival and the conditions and what happened in the game, and he did well. We’re very happy for him.”