When Jonathan Lewis got around the edge of the New York City FC back line — scorching his friend and former teammate Sebastien Ibeagha to assist on the opening goal of the match — he was further justifying his ascension to a starting role with the Colorado Rapids.
It was an opportunity rarely presented in the Bronx.
NYCFC rallied for a 2-1 win over the short-handed Rapids on Saturday night.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the result that we wanted, but it was good to play against the guys to show what I can do,” Lewis told Pro Soccer USA. “New York is one of the best teams in the league and it was nice to see all my friends again. You just move on.”
Lewis was making his fifth start in six appearances for the Rapids since his trade from NYCFC on May 7. In his two-plus seasons in the Bronx, Lewis was in the starting group just six times in 31 games. He was productive in limited minutes with six goals and six assists, but neither Patrick Vieira nor Dome Torrent chose to insert Lewis on a regular basis.
“I’m happy for him because he has more opportunities here [in Colorado],” Torrent said. “For us, and he knows that, it’s more difficult for him. We have Mitri [Alexandru Mitriță], we have Ismael [Tajouri-Shradi], we have Gus [Gary Mackay-Steven[, we have Jesus [Medina], we have Héber, we have Taty [Castellanos]. He had few opportunities with us.”
Héber and Mitriță scored the goals that rallied New York City to the win at altitude before over 15,000 fans at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Lewis’ new home where the Rapids have won four of their five matches in 2019.
“It’s hard to play in the altitude,” the Florida native Lewis said. “It’s an advantage that we have especially when the East Coast teams come in.”
And when the New York side went down a goal six minutes in on Lewis’ assist to 16-year-old Sebastian Anderson, the Rapids were in position for an upset. However, Anderson’s hard foul on City wing back Ronald Matarrita resulted in a straight red card in the 33rd minute.
“New York today in the first half, if you ask their coaching staff they would say they struggled,” Lewis said. “We went down to 10 men and they got their two goals but they were tired at the end. I think if we still had 11 men it would have been hard for them.”
Lewis managed one shot in his 69-minute shift after winning his early dual with Ibeagha.
“He made a joke to me that I’m not going to do anything today so he admitted that I had him,” said Lewis, who met up with Ibeagha at the team hotel the day prior. “It was good to run out against these guys. You know, sometimes I wish I could still be in New York getting the chance to play.”
But Torrent did not envision that opportunity with New York City.
“He’s the right player for Colorado – they defend deep and when they recover the ball they have the spaces,” Torrent said. “It’s not the same to play for one team [NYCFC] who have the control and don’t have the spaces and you have to play in the short spaces and you need another quality. Especially at Yankee Stadium when the opponent defended deep he had difficulties. I say to him good luck, he’s a good guy, he’s a good player especially for this team.”
“Sometimes it happens like that,” Lewis said. “There’s no hard feelings at all. Colorado’s brought me in and I’m able to get consistent games to show what I can do and develop. Obviously, its been a good run a form for me. The main thing has been getting the opportunity so that I can reach the heights of my career that I dream of.”
Lewis now has three goals plus two assists in his brief time with the Rapids and was a part of Gregg Berhalter’s Gold Cup roster this summer. He made his international debut in January while still a member of NYCFC.
“I miss the fans in New York,” Lewis said. “They were awesome to me.”