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Young DP Jesús Medina shines for NYCFC

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Ashley Cole (3) fights for the ball as New York City forward Jesus Medina (19) trails during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jesús Medina gathered an L.A. Galaxy turnover near the halfway line and found himself face to face with former Arsenal, Chelsea and England national team player Ashley Cole. 

Medina waited for the moment Cole was square in his defensive stance to push the ball past the 37-year-old Galaxy defender. Moments later, Medina delivered a perfect pass to Ben Sweat, whose first shot was saved by goalkeeper David Bingham.  The rebound fell to David Villa, who followed with the decisive goal that pushed New York City FC to a 2-1 victory over the Galaxy.

NYCFC opened the season with a 2-0 road win at Sporting Kansas City starting with two consecutive wins for the first time in club history.

Medina, a young designated player, had a prominent role in all four successful strikes of those matches.

Against SKC, Medina played on the left wing when he slipped a pass between defenders to find Villa, who beat Ike Opara to the end line for an assist of a Maxi Moralez goal. Medina then registered his first tally in Major League Soccer with a precise two-touch finish in front of Sporting KC goalkeeper, Tim Melia – arguably the top keeper in MLS at the moment.

On the introductory goal against the Galaxy, Medina was positioned on the right flank when he pushed a pass through a seam to Villa, which led to Anton Tinnerholm’s initial MLS goal.

Medina relishes his prompt link with Villa, the team captain.

“It’s good both on and off the field,” Medina said. “We have a good connection.”

Said Villa: “I mean, he’s 20 years old and the club can pay a few million for him because he’s a really, really, really good player. He did well – I was impressed.”

Medina, who was selected to the MLS Team of the Week twice in two weeks, grew accustomed to the professional ranks in his native Paraguay.  He made his first-team debut with Libertad at 15 and played in 74 league matches, garnering offers from Italy and Denmark prior to joining NYCFC. He’s featured with the U-17s and U-20s, and he debuted with his country’s senior national team against Mexico last summer.

“I think people expect a lot from him, and getting on the score sheet is nice for him,” NYCFC teammate Alex Ring said. “He’s a young kid and he’s going to need our support.  I think we are going to enjoy a lot of him.”

Medina has joined a legion of young South Americans — such as compatriots Miguel Almirón (Atlanta), Cristhian Paredes (Portland) and Josue Colmán (Orlando) — who identified MLS as a proper league for individual development. Like Medina, they all were signed for their attacking prowess.

Almirón, 24, provided comfort and support for Medina during the decision process.

Paredes, 19, started both opening matches for the Timbers. Colmán is recovering from a quad contusion, but trained in full Wednesday and could debut for Orlando at Yankee Stadium this Saturday when his side meets up with Medina’s.

“It’s difficult to come in here in a different country, a different language from the start,” Villa said.  “To do these kind of games is talking very good about him, no?”

Though Medina started both contests for NYCFC, he has yet to register a 90-minute match. 

“I love the way he worked for the team and how he created space for the players,” Vieira said after the Galaxy triumph. “He’s got the quality to make the assist or the pass before the assist. He understands the game really well.  What I love about him as well – he wasn’t happy to come off.”

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