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Ben Sweat provides balance at the back for New York City FC

New York City defender Ben Sweat (2) controls the ball as Orlando City defender Yoshimar Yotun (19) defends during the second half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Sweat has suffered infrequently during his brief Major League Soccer career. In 29 matches, all with New York City FC, the Palm Harbor, Florida native has endured only five defeats and has been a vital figure in NYC’s 3-0 start to the season.

The left back was a trialist when he signed in 2017 leading to an MLS debut in week eight versus Columbus Crew SC – the club that drafted him in 2014 out of the University of South Florida. 

Sweat never appeared for Gregg Berhalter’s side at Columbus.

Sweat started in place of the injured Ronald Matarrita against the Crew and assisted on the equalizer in NYC’s come from behind 3-2 triumph at MAPFRE Stadium.  When available, head coach Patrick Vieira has chosen Sweat for the XI ever since.

“My job is not to please players by the decisions I make, my job is pick the best starting XI who can represent the football club,” Vieira said. “I make the judgement by what I see in training.  Ben is doing well. Mata has to work harder.”

Former NYCFC defender Jason Hernandez, who won an MLS Cup with Toronto FC last season, has never played alongside Sweat but spent two seasons in the Bronx with the talented Matarrita.

“Being able to get the nod with the ability and pedigree of Mata says all you need to know what the coaching staff thinks of him,” Hernandez said.

“Tactically he’s fully respected what I want and what I ask,” Vieira said.

“I understand what he (Vieira) wants me to do tactically at left back,” Sweat said.

Sweat devoted two seasons in the NASL to the Tampa Bay Rowdies before his NYCFC test and has registered one goal and eight assists in regular matches. His assist that christened Jesus Medina in the win at Sporting KC to open the season was delivered following an exquisite penetrating run through the inside channel.

Matarrita is capable of similar brilliance on the attack but the balance on both sides of the ball is the quality that places Sweat at the top of the depth chart.

“It’s not just about when we are in possession of the ball – it’s the defensive side as well,” Vieira said. “Ben is making some really good decisions inside the box when we defend.”

The 26-year old is in the prime of his development and a potential candidate for an international call-up from the the U.S. Men’s National Team although it is unclear whether Sweat is on U.S. Soccer’s radar.

“No, I haven’t heard anything,” Sweat said. “When I hear something, fantastic.  Till then I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and if that happens its just an extra cherry on top.  I would love to represent my country at some point and put on that crest.  If not, it doesn’t change how I come here and perform for New York City FC.”

Hernandez, who earned three caps for Puerto Rico, believes that Sweat needs to provide further evidence before warranting an invitation to the full team.

“It’s a little premature to talk about national team stuff for him,” Hernandez said. “He’s had the one good year under his belt and if he matches that with another good year, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a look. If you show you are one of the top two left backs in the league you deserve that. If he can do that there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a call.”

For now, he remains the principal left back in the NYCFC program.

“It is normal at the moment that he’s the one who plays,” Vieira said.

“I’m truly blessed to have been given the opportunity here,” Sweat said. “There are a lot of players like me that get stuck or lost in the system – quality players who can play at the next level. It’s being patient and grinding through it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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