NEW YORK — Despite creating a clear team identity that led to overall successful results during his two and a half seasons with New York City FC, Patrick Vieira did not escape criticism – especially in the category of playing time for his young, American players.
That may be the clearest distinction between Vieira and his successor, Domènec Torrent.
NYCFC’s 21-year old forward Jonathan Lewis has a goal and two game-winning assists in the last three City matches and has appeared in all five matches under the direction of Torrent. He turned up twice in 15 matches with Vieira at the helm for a total of 28 minutes.
“He has confidence in me and all the other youth players,” Lewis said after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Columbus. “Kwame (Awuah) is starting to get a run. Under Patrick, he didn’t see much time.
Awuah, 22, logged 25 minutes against Columbus and nine minutes as a reserve in Wednesday’s victory versus Montreal. While Vieira consistently complimented the training effort and effectiveness of Awuah throughout the season, the UConn graduate made but two cameos for a total of three minutes prior to Wednesday.
“We are here to try to improve the young players,” Torrent said. “Not just Jona [Lewis], but Kwame and James [Sands].”
Sands, 18, who recently returned from winning the U.S. Soccer Development Academy national championship with NYCFC’s U-18/19s, has just one professional appearance since signing as the club’s first Homegrown player in June of last season. Sands was a late substitute in a mid-September match for Andrea Pirlo last year.
“He believes in me, Kwame and James,” Lewis said of his new coach. “He believes for us to push the veterans as well as they push us. I think it’s very well balanced here now.”