Mancuso: NYCFC Youth Movement And It’s Working

There have been changes for NYCFC this past week and after three home games at Yankee Stadium under new head coach Domenec Torrent there are is minimal room for criticism.  The lineup led to three straight wins and the opposing teams were shutout. And all of this was done without the star David Villa.

Villa sat out three games in the Bronx with a bad knee. Wins over the Rival Red Bulls (1-0), Montreal (3-0), and 2-0 over Columbus Saturday evening have placed NYCFC in a tie for the top spot in the MLS East division with Atlanta.

Credit: Yeng Luciano

No complaints and more playing time for the youngsters which has turned out to be a good thing.  The bad thing is the inability to score in the first half. All three games were decided late in the game and that can be attributed to the opposition who also attack and play defense.

Regardless, this is a team that has adjusted to the transition with Torrent during the mid point of their schedule.  They are loose, a little bruised , and get along in that locker room. Jonathan Lewis, the 2o-year old forward who played a role in the first goal at the 80th minute during the post game media interview had some company.

Sean Johnson, perhaps the underrated and premiere goalkeeper in the MLS, played the role of a reporter and stuck his cell phone in between. Yes, they are loose and winning will do that for a team that is undefeated at home this season after 11 matches, 10 wins and a draw.

 NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson (1) makes a save in front of Columbus Crew SC defender Josh Williams (3) and forward Gyasi Zardes (11) during the second half at Yankee Stadium.  Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“We play like it’s a fortress where no one can just come in and beat us.” Lewis said. “So we’re just working hard and working on our fitness so we can get an extra boost at the end of the game and get these late goals.”

Lewis said the competition has been tough. The Red Bulls are in the division race, Columbus has a history of taking NYCFC to the limit, as they did last October by knocking them out of the MLS championship Cup run with a win at Yankee Stadium. Columbus is also fourth in the division.

  New York City FC midfielder Jesus Medina (19) celebrates his goal against the Columbus Crew SC during the second half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis and his assist, off a giveaway from Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen led to his shot that hit the left post and came back to him. That led to a cross to the middle and led to Jesus Medina scoring his fourth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.

“We changed a little in the second half,” Torrent said. “I believe we played much better in the second half. We had some chances but they played much than us in my opinion.”I am happy we have gained three more points, but one day we will lose at home. “

Yes, NYCFC will lose another game at home, it is inevitable. But this is a team that takes the field now with that approach of not losing, whether it be at home or on the road and the next three weeks they will travel  before returning to Yankee Stadium August 4th and host Vancouver.

 New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) plays the ball against the Columbus Crew SC during the first half at Yankee Stadium.Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

And it appears that Lewis will get more playing time. He is one of the youngsters that is part of this youth movement that Domenec Torrent believes will help this team go far. Lewis did not start and was inserted in time to make an impact with that first goal.

“Don’t  forget Jonathan plays better when our team finds spaces,” Torrent said. “ Jonathan is especially a player who plays against teams who play high. It’s very important for us because you know after that he’s a fast player. I’m very happy for him because in every single training they improve a lot and the training sessions after the session, normally Jonathan trains more to improve the cross, to improve the one-by-one and that is the reason I’m very happy for him.”

Of course there is reason to be happy, also because Lewis has become a spark. NYCFC is quick and aggressive and when Lewis was inserted the results showed.

Columbus Crew SC midfielder Artur (7) plays the ball against New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) and midfielder Jesus Medina (19) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson said this is a group with a strong character. The week was important and NYCFC gained three more points with their latest win.  Yes, winning does bring out better character and there was room for some fun in the postgame locker room.

There are these youngsters like Jonathan Lewis and midfielder Kwame Awuah getting more playing time because Torrent believes in them. They are making an impact with the veterans.

“We’ve watched him step up and he’s been a real big part of our week,” Johnson said about Lewis. “It’s good to see his talent and and see him getting an opportunity.”

And certainly more to come with the fun, because winning has a way of doing that for this NYCFC team.  

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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