Khiry Shelton Returns to NYCFC Feeling Fitter and Wiser

Aug 12, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos (8) passes the ball defended by New York City FC forward Khiry Shelton (19) during the second half at StubHub Center. New York City FC won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Khiry Shelton‘s time at New York City FC has been a traffic jam.

For every moment of productivity, energy and joy on the field, there has been an injury and the idle wait to recover and move again. After another such wait, Shelton is back on the field and contributing off the bench in four of the past five games, all of which have been NYCFC wins. Now in his third year, Shelton said he’s acknowledged the injury risks he’s faced but has learned how to mitigate them.

“I’ve had injuries here and there but now I’ve figured out my body a bit more,” Shelton said. “I know how to take care of it better. The injuries are going to happen, just because of the way I’m built so it’s just about maintaining and trying to prevent injuries from happening.”

Shelton has had hamstring injuries sideline him in each of his three seasons in the league and this year its limited him to eight appearances and only 187 minutes played. Though he’s yet to start a game, the window for him to do so may open up tomorrow against the Portland Timbers with David Villa injured and Jack Harrison set to receive some rest after playing 90 minutes against Sporting Kansas City. He said he’s adapted to each game he’s been asked to appear in.

“It depends on the game, how it’s going and the flow of the game,” Shelton said. “Like last game after we went up a goal, I tried to slow things down and keep the ball more since time was near the end but it depends on the game. I just try to go off of that.”

Shelton and Jonathan Lewis have worked in tandem as of late with Lewis starting games and coming off after about 60 minutes. In Shelton’s last two appearances, The Pigeons found the game-winning goal with him on the field. He also helped City hold onto a clean sheet against the LA Galaxy. His appearances off the bench have earned praised from head coach Patrick Vieira.

“He brought energy, he brings physicality in the game and it gave them problems,” Vieira said after Wednesday’s game. “He showed a really good attitude when he came on. That is the message we try to send as coaches and staff that during the season it’s about the team, not just about the eleven who start the game.”

When Shelton is fit, he has been a consistent part of Vieira’s plans. He started 13 games last year and recorded four goals and nine assists. Before suffering a hamstring injury in late April, he had come off the bench in three of City’s first five games. Shelton said that while he’s been sidelined, he’s been able to learn the game and better understand how to form the habits that can help him have a long career.

“Moving forward, it would help my career tremendously,” Shelton said. “The less I’m out, the better I’m getting each and every day. What I can do with my career and personal success and with the club, there’s a lot that can be done. It’s just staying healthy.”

The rest of the season will go far in answering the open question of whether Shelton can stay healthy for the course of a season. The ramifications of which will go far in determining whether NYCFC decides what to do with Shelton at the end of the year. The club exercised contract options on him each of the past two years but will have to decide whether to re-sign him this offseason.

“I’m maturing as a person and as a player. I need more time but I’m still going to continue to grow and learn more about the game. I’m a student of the game and I’ll always love this game and put my best foot forward and learn as much as I can while I’m still playing.”

NOTES

• As mentioned above, David Villa will not be available for tomorrow’s game as he recovers from the adductor strain suffered while with Spain, Vieira said. Villa was able to train in parts of the last two days and is expected to be fit for the team’s trip to Colorado next weekend.

• More troubling may be the news that Yangel Herrera may have suffered a sports hernia in Venezuela’s draw with Argentina. Vieira said Herrera had a ‘pubis’ injury after training Friday and the team labeled it an athletic pubalgia. The two terms mean the same thing but the medical community prefers to call such injuries by the latter.

Alex Ring participated in training on Friday and should be available after injuring his toe while with Finland. He is listed as questionable on the official injury report. Ring could either replace Herrera at defensive midfield and combine with Maxi Moralez and Andrea Pirlo in a redux of the midfield City used at the beginning of the season.

• The Timbers will be without Fanendo Adi, Jake Gleeson and Liam Ridgewell due to injuries as well. Darren Mattocks is likely to start for Adi at center forward and Jeff Atinella is likely to start in goal for Gleeson.

• Saturday’s game is Hispanic Heritage Night and City announced that it will host free salsa dancing lessons at the Batter’s Eye Deck starting at 4 p.m.