NYCFC Takes the Long View With Lewis and Awuah

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

NYCFC logoInjuries and a tight schedule brought significant rotation to the New York City FC roster over the last month, but Jonathan Lewis was surprisingly not involved. Lewis is healthy but the promising rookie is on the fringe and may stay there for the rest of the season.

“What is important for him is to keep working and working well,” Coach Patrick Vieira said, “and if he has the opportunity to play, to show how good he is. What is important for him and for me is how can we make him improve and how can we give him the experience to be a better player. I hope that next year he will play more games than this year.”

Vieira said he’s hoping Lewis can have a second season that would be as productive as Jack Harrison‘s. Lewis has made 10 appearances this season scoring twice and recording an assist. But with Harrison, Rodney Wallace and Khiry Shelton all ahead of him on the depth chart, Lewis’ chances of appearing for the rest of the season are low. Lewis said he thought he hit the rookie wall but he’s trying to maintain the same attitude.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m in the rotation or not,” Lewis said. “We just have to keep training and do our part to push each other and that’s what’s going to help us win a championship. Having depth, that’s going to help push the team so if someone falls out of favor, the next person can step up. It all makes us push harder and work more.”

NYCFC spent $250,000 in allocation money for the opportunity to draft Lewis third over all in this year’s draft. The club also traded $75,000 to the Seattle Sounders for the chance to draft Kwame Awuah 16th over all. Some of the $325,000 could have been used in the summer as City struggled to bolster its squad for the playoffs, but Vieira said the the technical staff knows where they are with both players’ development.

“We knew that we needed to work with them and they are part of our football club,” Vieira said. “Jonathan played a few games and showed he’s got potential. Kwame played well as well and in training as well but it’s just about the opportunity that he didn’t have yet. But those two players will be part of our football club and we will want to keep them for next season.”

City has not used its affiliation with San Antonio FC this season and only sent one player, Shannon Gomez, out on loan to the USL. City will not operate a second team in the USL next season and continues to search for the right ownership group to partner with and form an affiliate team closer to home. Vieira said not having that local affiliation has played in role in the team’s roster building.

“We will have to be creative and find a way to give the young players the games program that helps them develop themselves,” he said. :That’s why when we make the roster, we have to think about not having a B team and how can we support the young players who need to develop themselves. That is the question that we have to ask ourselves.”

Lewis and Vieira are on the same page with respect to the amount of playing time Lewis can get and his place on the depth chart. Lewis said he wasn’t surprised that there would be challenges to making the leap from college to professional soccer and that pursuing an MLS Cup in his rookie season at NYCFC has already helped him mature as a player.

“I come from an environment where we didn’t win much on my club team,” Lewis said. “Now I come somewhere we fight for the title and it’s going to be a lot of work but I think we can do it.”