Early Saturday evening after New York City FC shutout the LA Galaxy 1-0 at Yankees Stadium, Mikey Lopez the midfielder was dressed in the visitor’s locker room at Yankee Stadium. Once again the 22-year old Lopez was inactive and watched his team win in a suite upstairs with family members of teammates.
Lopez was not sitting for a suspension though his coach, Patrick Vieira was for an infraction with game officials last week. And not like other sports, coaches post their starting roster and reserves before a game, so Lopez once again was shutout from the action.
However, limited playing time does not stop Lopez from striving to get an opportunity. In the event of an injury down the stretch, NYCFC will eventually put Lopez in action. For now, it is once again a waiting game after being on the field for 15-games, six as a starter and recording one assist.
It’s been over a month since the last game. Lopez stays sharp on the practice field up in Westchester County and realizes Major League Soccer is a business like all other professional sports.
“I can’t let it get to me,” Lopez said about the limited playing time. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game of the business. You have to keep grinding it out day-to day.”
David Villa is the star and in the sixth minute he scored the lone goal. Lopez was looking at the superstar from Spain and smiled. One day, and hopefully soon, he hopes to be on the field again with one of the high profiled stars of the league.
“He is just amazing,” Lopez said with a smile. “We got off to a slow start and now in first place. We are peaking at the right moment. We had some people not here at the beginning of the year. It’s chemistry the more we are with each other.”
At 5″8′, 160 pounds, Lopez resembles a lightweight fighter from Mexico though he is of that descent and resides in Dallas Texas. When he is on the field the quickness is evident but the experience has yet to be a part of his game.
A 14th overall draft pick by Sporting Kansas City, in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Lopez played at the University of North Carolina and was voted ACC Freshman of the year in 2011 in leading the Tar Heels to the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer championship.
“I’ve had three years,” he said. And with a hesitant smile, Lopez said the inactivity is “not slowing me down.’ He said this is a learning process and making him better.
NYCFC signed Lopez to a one-year deal in late January because of that quickness. But transition with a team, as in any sport quickly became part of NYCFC as they got off to a slow start. There were constant changes to the roster and on game day Vieira, the manager/coach made changes on the field.
“You can’t let these things get to you,” said Lopez. “When the time comes you probably won’t perform. You have to keep performing or it won’t be fun anymore.”
The fun is being a part of the excitement that NYCFC has brought to the Bronx and Yankee Stadium with a solid base of fans. Saturday afternoon, 35.509 of those rabid fans cheered and stayed in their seats as Lopez watched the defensive battle unfold upstairs.
“I love being here,” lopez said. “Like I said, the first few years passed me by. I’ve enjoyed my time here, the fans are amazing.”
Then it was time to board that team bus and enjoying a night out, The hope is, and soon, that Lopez will be activated for an eventual game and perhaps when NYCFC returns to the Bronx and hosts division rival D.C. United on Sep. 1.