We have all been sleeping dangerously on Jonathan Lewis.
When the U.S. U20 team lost its first game of World Cup qualifying earlier this year, a dire 1-0 setback against 10-man Panama, coach Tab Ramos essentially hit the reset button. Part of the recovery in the group phase was undoubtedly down to the opponents: Haiti and St. Kitts & Nevis were more speedbump than roadblock. But as part of the reshuffle, Jonathan Lewis was subbed onto the left flank as its primary driving force and suddenly it was open for business. Lewis played most of the final two group matches and the U.S. won them a combined 8-2.
Lewis was pugnacious in the attack, like in this one-two with Sebastian Saucedo the RSL man seemed to overcook. Watch Lewis as he flips into the next gear, salvages the play and pops this ball into Saucedo’s path for the finish to put the St. Kitts & Nevis result to bed.
Or this showing run for Eryk Williamson with the US perilously trailing Haiti 1-0. Watch as Lewis glimpses the space, subtly starts bending his run inward and flips on the jets. We were always told Lewis’ speed was perhaps the most obvious part of his skill set, and this will do nothing to dissuade you.
Lewis earned a penalty here.
Finally, this from later in the same game. It’s somewhat difficult to tell from the way this highlight is cut, but Lewis planted his defender 17 feet underneath the turf with an inside-out move to create room for himself before shuttling this inside with his lethal left foot. Lewis is the fulcrum that opens this entire movement, and the only reason Brooks Lennon is as wide open as he is? Lewis.
It still was not enough to buy Lewis’ way into the XI for the knockouts. It’s hard to ding Ramos too much for his tactics in Costa Rica, considering the US reversed its tourney-opening loss to win all of its remaining games – including one over Mexico for the first time in nearly 30 years. But his choice to remove Lewis from the starting equation was intriguing and a bit surprising.
The backdrop to all this was NYCFC’s surprise swoop for Lewis at the draft in January at No. 3 overall. To wit, $250K in allocation is no small act in MLS, and NYCFC willfully threw it at the Chicago Fire to move up to draft Lewis. He was the final addition to this particular GA class, and he was probably the least known in national terms. He had a stellar freshman campaign with Akron, but his best position on the next level wasn’t all that obvious, and he was just a freshman after all. They rarely make GA lists these days. And so we slept.
Lewis was probably the least ballyhooed of the current GA crop, and his playing time with NYCFC seemed to be confirmation of that fact. He played just 23 minutes in NYCFC’s first 20 games, despite the fact that they desperately needed width at times over that span. And then, on July 22, a breakthrough in his first career start.
This cutback is something else.
Then, three weeks and about 120 minutes of game time later, Lewis did it again. This time it was a goal. And what a damn goal it was.
It has perhaps been all too easy to sleep on Jonathan Lewis to date. Something tells me those days are beginning to stretch behind us.