Jesus Medina checks all the boxes in debut with New York City FC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jesus Medina ticked all the New Guy Interview Boxes after his MLS debut with New York City FC.

Glad to be here? Check: “First off, I’m very happy that I was able to debut,” Medina said through an interpreter after bagging a goal and an assist in Sunday night’s season-opening 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City. “Like I said in the past, I’m very excited. It’s a big step in my career.”

Proud to contribute right out of the gate, but putting the team’s success first? Yup: “It was a very, very competitive game. It was a great game, but we played really well and it was a big step in my career to have my first game.”

Developing a good relationship with the star teammate (in this case, striker David Villa) and looking to build on that even more? Absolutely: “It’s good, both on and off the field. We have a very good connection, and I want to keep that going – having a good connection throughout the season so that we both keep playing well together.”

And, of course, NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira said the one thing a manager has to say about a young player who’s just announced his presence with authority.

“I think he is a player who needs to grow up,” Vieira said in his postmatch news conference. “I think he’s got a really good potential, and we’re going to give him time.”

Okay. Vieira actually said more than that about the 20-year-old Paraguayan (more on that later) – and Medina let his play do all the talking at Children's Mercy Park.

He started off with the assist, feeding Villa with a short diagonal ball that found the Spaniard in space at the top corner of the penalty area. Villa drove toward the end line, past center back Ike Opara, and slotted a cross that Maxi Moralez tapped home from point-blank range.

Jesus Medina celebrates with Maxi Moralez after Moralez's goal | USA Today Sports Images

The two had a very good connection, indeed – and Medina wasn’t done making an impression.

In the 53rd minute, he finished off a smash-and-grab counter to double NYCFC’s lead, after a pretty backheel from Yangel Herrera found left back Ben Sweat in stride down the flank. Medina settled Sweat’s bouncing cross with his right foot, then put a pretty touch on it with his left to seal the deal.

If that’s just potential, as Vieira said, then Medina’s first season in the league should be something to watch.

Here’s where Vieira sounds the cautionary note again, because – well, because he has to:

“Today, he had a fantastic game. He managed to score the goal. But we know that he’ll need time to keep developing, and myself and the staff are going to give him all the support he needs to grow up. It is really tough for him. 

“He’s coming into a country where he doesn’t speak the language and the culture is different, so he will need time to adapt himself. We have the support in our football club to help him go through the difficult battle that he will face.”

In fairness, that’s a realistic take. One match is one match, and Medina – for now – has the advantage of newness. Defenses will learn to adjust to him – and the young Designated Player tag will come with its own weight of expectation, especially for a club with NYCFC’s profile and ambitions.

That’s not a concern right now, though.

“I’m enjoying the game and I’m really, really happy,” Medina said. “I don’t feel the pressure. I’m enjoying the moments as I’m going through.”

With a first match like this one, he’s entitled – so far, at least – to just be happy to be here.

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