Positivity Pushes Jonathan Lewis

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

It’s natural for life’s first real setbacks to happen in your early twenties and shatter an aura of invincibility once felt. Jonathan Lewis is no different.

Lewis was the youngest member of this year’s Generation Adidas class after an intriguing rookie season at the University of Akron and earned a spot on the US U20 squad for World Cup Qualifying. It led New York City FC to drop $250,000 in General Allocation Money for the opportunity to draft him third overall in the SuperDraft. Lewis was buoyant, ready to relish the moment. Then came the roster snub and a fall down the depth chart.

Tab Ramos left Lewis off the World Cup roster and Rodney Wallace’s arrival sent Lewis to the background for country and club. After two cameos, Lewis got his chance on July 22 with a start against the Chicago Fire where he put in 72 minutes of direct running and dribbling from left wing punctuated with a well-timed cutback and assist for David Villa. Lewis has started the last two games and scored his first goal Saturday against the LA Galaxy with a side-footed finish from outside the area. He said he didn’t mean for his shot to be so perfectly placed underneath the crossbar but he won’t mind.

“It’s fun, I’m enjoying it now and getting the chance to play with some of these great players makes it a lot easier,” Lewis said. “I have players on my team who can help me get the ball and let me use my strengths. I feel like they help me and I’m able to help them and I’ve been playing well recently so it’s good.”

Lewis has been able to expand City’s attack with his runs down the left wing, which opens space for Villa to move into. He can also create space by cutting inside and attacking defenders on the dribble, which is how he got his assist and his goal. Head coach Patrick Vieira said Lewis is displaying the confidence to play this way.

“His positive attitude will help him earn the confidence and belief from the players around him and myself then he will start to play,” Vieira said. “It’s not about the quality, it’s about him keeping his feet on the ground, learning the game, working hard for the team. Then it will get to a time where he will show his quality. He will do it because he’s surrounded by players who can be good to him but tough on him too so he’s in a good place to learn.”

Since City were unable to add talent during the summer window, Lewis is likely to be a heavily involved in their run to the postseason starting Sunday against the New England Revolution, just as Jack Harrison was last season. Harrison, however, was only able to score once in the final two months of the season hitting the proverbial wall. Lewis is not naïve and knows that there will be a wall for him to hit soon.

“I just have to keep my head up, it’s going to happen,” Lewis said. “The best players in the world go through slumps but the best players in the world can recover from slumps and go on a run again. At the end of the day, form is temporary and class is permanent so at the end of the day, I need to keep my head up and keep working.”

NOTES

Alex Ring will be suspended for Sunday’s game after picking up a yellow card against the Galaxy. Mikey Lopez spent more time training with the first-team during Wednesday’s session than Andrea Pirlo.

• Maxime Chanot cannot do any running or light jogging for another two weeks according to Vieira. Chanot tweeted a picture of himself working out at NYCFC’s facilities but has missed the last four games to an injured pelvis.

James Sands fully trained Wednesday and he will join the US U17s for the Vaclav Jezek Tournament in Prague next week. Sands will not be available for Sunday’s game and will probably miss next Friday’s game against the New York Red Bulls.

• Also joining the US U17s is defender Tyler Shaver from Greenwich, Connecticut. Shaver had been playing with Beachside SC, an NYCFC Youth Affiliate and was also part of the U17 Residency Program. He has already committed to attending Stanford University for Fall 2018.