CARSON, Calif. -- It was a moment of magic that completely changed the tide of Saturday's 2-0 win for New York City FC against a dominant LA Galaxy and for rookie Jonathan Lewis, his first MLS goal was one to savor.
“I just saw an open space and I knew someone was coming,” Lewis recalled after the game. “I knew if I skipped past him, I would have some space. I saw that the keeper was off his line, so I tried it.”
In the moment, it didn’t dawn on Lewis that it was his first professional strike.
“I was just more happy that we got a breakthrough. That’s why I went to the team,” the former Akron man said of his celebration along the sideline with his teammates. “We were working hard for the breakthrough, so we finally got one.”
NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira was pleased with Lewis’ performance, but continued to urge a cautious approach with the rookie's progress.
“We need to understand that he’s a young player. He needs time and games to develop himself,” Vieira said, “but today he did what I was expecting. Particularly, he was well disciplined. He had a chance and he scored one of the nicest goals that we are going to see. Outside of the goal, I was happy with the way that he worked for the team.”
“That’s a special goal,” NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson -- who had a man of the match performance himself -- said of Lewis’ wonder strike.
“You talk about a player who’s young, who’s worked extremely hard to get to a point of starting and contributing to this team. I told him before the game, ‘Look, you’ve got what it takes. you know that. Keep going at them, keep doing your thing, keep putting pressure on their backline, empty your tank. at the end of the day you know your abilities so when you get on the ball don’t be afraid to go at players.’
"You can see the confidence once he started moving and I’m glad he took the opportunity.”
Midfielder Rodney Wallace also heaped praise on Lewis, particularly for the way he has matured throughout his first season in MLS, which is always going to come with its ups and downs.
“We’ve all had those difficult moments,” Wallace said. “I think he’s gone through that. What makes him a better player, a good professional, is that you bounce back from hard moments. You work hard and then you see the fruits of your labor [like he did] tonight."
After making just two substitute appearances through NYCFC's first 20 MLS regular season games this year, Lewis has played in the last four, starting three and taking shots in each.
“He’s very competitive and sometimes he doesn’t know why he’s not on the field. He’s asking questions,” Wallace continued, “but sometimes it’s just not about him. It’s about the bigger picture and I think that he’s starting to understand that.”