New York City F.C. midfielder Jonathan Lewis thought “it was a joke” when he got an email saying he was invited to the U.S. January camp but he registered two assists in two games, which certainly pushed him closer to making a breakthrough.
“I just have to keep my head up, it’s going to happen,” New York City FC winger Jonathan Lewis said, via Christian Araos of Empire of Soccer.
Although Lewis was drafted as the third overall pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, he didn’t have the most promising start of his career due to lack of playing time. The American only racked four starts in the MLS in his first two seasons and came off the bench 22 times, notching three goals and four assists in his total of 26 appearances.
However, in the United States’ first friendly of the year, Lewis blew past Panamanian defender Edgar Góndola Antioco down the left flank before sending a low-cross to Christian Ramirez, who scored an easy tap-in in the 89th minute.
The 21-year-old made the U.S. roster after they added a late extra-spot. When he found out in a late email at first he thought “it was a joke,” via Glenn Crooks on Soccer City Spotlight. Nevertheless, in just 24 minutes versus Panama, in his first senior cap, the speedster tallied an assist.
But did it happen?
No, it’s going to take more than that. Six days later in a match versus Costa Rica, Lewis squared up with Keysher Fuller Spence on the left wing in the 80th minute then sliced a sublime cross to Sebastian Lleget to head home.
Opta Jack noted that the Atlanta native is the first American to record an assist in two straight matches as a substitute since 2014.
It surely happened then, no?
No, not quite. It’s going to take more than two games. But two highlight-reel assists in his first two matches with a national team surely brought Lewis two large steps closer to making it happen—two steps closer to making a breakthrough in his young career.
Jonathan Lewis vs Costa Ricapic.twitter.com/XPQwaPMrYP
— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) February 2, 2019
The first stumbling block in front of the winger is, of course, playing time with NYCFC.
“I need to start playing consistently,” Lewis told Kyle Schnitzer of the New York Post. “I definitely need to get some minutes to improve on some other things because that’s just the step forward I need to take. I just need to start playing consistently.”
When watching the pacy, confident, skillful midfielder bolting down the line one might be shocked at the thought that he’s struggling to get off the bench. The midfielder was even loaned to Louisville City last year to see more action.
But, of course, there’s always a reason why a player isn’t seeing the field as often as he wishes. In Lewis’ case and for many other young attacking minded midfielder it’s because he needs to improve his defense.
When asked if it is indeed because of his defense he hasn’t been playing much for The Boys in Blues on Soccer City Spotlight, Lewis answered: “I mean I guess that’s what I would think it is. That’s what the coaches have said, I would assume that’s what it is.
“Obviously, for me, I feel that I have to try to get games so I can show the defensive ability ‘cause sometimes the tactical aspect is not always learned in practice.”
Prior to the previous statement, the 2017 MLS Combine MVP expressed that defense was one of his main focuses in the U.S. January camp. Lewis will look to transfer his quest to better his defense from the USMNT back to NYCFC as he joins them for preseason camp in Abu Dhabi.
If the youngster was to strengthen his weakness it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his name in Torrent’s starting line-up week in and week out. New York will kick off their MLS season on March 2 with an away match versus Orlando SC.
As for earning regular playing time with the U.S. Men’s National Team, that’s on a higher degree of difficulty. Even after recording two assists in the January games, it’s unlikely for the midfielder to get called up to the A-team.
The Atlanta native himself understands that his first two stellar performances with the senior team didn’t cut it.
When asked where he sees himself in The Yanks’ first team, in an interview with The NYCFC Nation reporter Chris P, the left midfielder answered: “Ah, I mean that’s to be determined; first I need try to make sure I’m playing in New York and playing well and then executing there and then go from there.
There’s also a supplementary road Lewis can take to make a case that he’s national team material, and that is in the U.S. U-23 matches this year.
Establishing himself as a top American winger does seem a bit far away for the former Akron Zips superstar, but the more he keeps flying past his opponents down the line and delivering key crosses and strengthening his defense, the closer he gets to making it happen.