Jonathan Lewis (right) celebrates his goal with Sebastien Ibeagha. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Since Domenec Torrent became New York City FC head coach, Jonathan Lewis has seen more of the light of day on the soccer field.
The 21-year-old forward has played all of 54 minutes in four appearances off the bench in the second half of matches, which doesn’t sound like much. But Lewis played only twice over 28 minutes this season during Patrick Vieira’s tenure this season.
But Lewis has made an impact in his past two games within a four-day span. He came on in the 76th minute and set up Maxi Moralez’s goal in the 1-0 triumph over the Red Bulls Sunday. On Wednesday night, Lewis took the field in the 67th minute and tallied the last goal in a 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact.
Not too shabby for cameo appearances.
“It’s great now that I have more confidence, and the manager keeps putting me out there,” Lewis told reporters at Yankee Stadium. “Obviously I gotta keep working hard and playing as well as I can when I get out there.”
Torrent, who replaced Vieira as the head man last month, has seen Lewis’ potential and has tried to maximize his strengths to the team’s benefit.
“Jonathan is a fast player and has a lot of intensity in every single ball,” he said. “He’s a fighter. When the opponents defended deep, he has more issues. I prefer [taking it] step-by-step because he’s a young player.”
The new NYCFC boss felt it was better for Lewis to enter the game as substitute rather than start him at the moment.
“When the game is open, it is the right moment for Jonathan because the quality for Jonathan is to run behind them,” he said. “But step by step he has to improve. He’s a young player. I’m very happy with him. The most important thing, as a coach, is when a player plays 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, is focusing on that. Right now, Jonathan is focusing every single second.”
Lewis was focused in the 76th minute, when he converted a Ronald Matarrita assist and scored his first goal of the season and third for the club to seal the win.
“I wouldn’t say I figured it out, but I definitely think I’m learning and processing new information,” he said. “I’m learning from my teammates on how to be mature, so when I’m not getting my shot to play, I’m learning from the guys and seeing what they do and I what I can bring different.”
With such more experienced players up front such as David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo Inge Berget, Jesus Medina and Rodney Wallace, it might be more difficult for Lewis to find his way into the Starting XI, but he figured he will find a way to play, whether it is starting or coming off the bench.
“Whether I’m coming off the bench or I’m starting I’m trying to get goals,” Lewis said. “For the rest of the season I want to try and score and try to stay fit and do whatever [the coaches] need me to do.”