BRONX, N.Y. — Disappointing, frustrating. You name the adjective and it’s been that kind of season for Jesus Medina.
Arriving at New York City FC before the 2018 season as a young designated player from Club Libertad, the young Paraguayan hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations and has seen his minutes drop significantly in 2019.
From six goals and seven assists in 28 appearances, 21 starts, in 2,005 minutes a year ago, Medina has started three of his nine appearances this season, playing a total of 346 minutes over the course of the first five months of the season.
He’s fallen on the depth chart, from starter, to substitute to seldom used. But Wednesday night, NYCFC coach Dome Torrent brought Medina on for his first MLS minutes in two months. And the 22-year-old made the most of his rare minutes with a goal and an assist in a 35-minute shift to help lead NYCFC to a 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders at Yankee Stadium.
“’I’ve been waiting and to play again and it was a good time,” Medina said through a translator. “I needed to take advantage and the moment came. Now it’s time to relax because we have an important game on Sunday.”
Three minutes after coming on for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Medina helped set up the game’s first goal. He returned a pass from Maxi Moralez, who played back to Medina. That pass was just in front of Medina, who briefly battled Xavier Arreaga for the ball before it squirted to Moralez, who put a deflected shot off a sliding Jordy Delem past Stefan Frei.
In the 77th minute, Medina scored the insurance goal — his first since August 4 — when he charged to the net and tapped in a low shot by Taty Castellanos.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 4, 2019
“It was such an amazing feeling,” Medina said.
It was the third time Medina picked up a goal and an assist in a game. He did so on his memorable MLS debut in a 2-0 win at Sporting Kansas City to open the 2018 season and again in a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact last July 11.
After joking it was his fault that Medina hasn’t scored more goals because he hasn’t selected him to play enough, NYCFC coach Dome Torrent reiterated the importance of the entire roster contributing.
“It’s good news because the team needs Jesus Medina,” Torrent said. “And it’s good because I know how important it is for these kind of players, especially wingers, strikers to score because they play forward. Everything is better when we win. Everybody is ready.”
‘Spider-Man’ provides more heroics
Moralez is nicknamed ‘Spider-Man’ because of his web-slinging motion when he scores goals. The Argentine is certainly on a superhero level right now with a stunning run of form.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is just the second player in MLS history to accumulate eight points in back-to-back games — Dillon Serna with the Miami Fusion in 2001 the other. And that was before a goal against the Sounders, which extended a points streak to seven league games, in which he has six goals and seven assists.
Moralez, who leads MLS with 11 assists, is low-key having an MVP-type season. But he doesn’t remember having this type of offensive run in his playing career.
“It’s always important to be able to contribute with goals and assists, for the club, as a whole,” he said through a translator. “On a personal level, its always great for me too. The team’s been able to, over the past two months, increase our standing and do really well and keep moving up.”
His days as an NYCFC starting goalkeeper might be numbered with Sean Johnson returning from Gold Cup duty following Sunday’s final against Mexico, but Brad Stuver can say he’s finally earned his first MLS clean sheet on Wednesday.
In his third consecutive league start, Stuver made four saves, including a key stop in each half, for his first shutout in seven all-time appearances.
He was pressed into making a kick save to deny Nouhou Tolo in the 32nd minute and used both hands to parry away a Victor Rodriguez free kick from 24 yards out in the 67th minute.
“Everyone’s been telling me that, I didn’t even realize it,” Stuver said. “It feels good. But a lot of credit goes to the guys in front of me. They limited the amount of shots. I think I only really had the one-on-one in the first half and then the free kick. The rest was just playing out of the back, so credit to the guys in front of me for making it a pretty easy night.”