SuperDraft 2017 Surprise – Why NYCFC’s attacking first pick actually makes sense

The MLS SuperDraft kicked off yesterday with some big surprises, and Jonathan Lewis being picked by NYCFC was one of the bigger ones. Some other stuff happened, like the super talented Abu Danladi going first, which wasn’t a massive surprise, though most mock drafts had him going second or third. Consensus number one pick Jeremey Ebobisse slipped all the way to fourth after Atlanta United passed on him at number 2, and poor Brandon Aubrey, a supposed top ten pick, dropped all the way to 21st after being unimpressive at the combine. But again the real surprise was NYCFC.

NYCFC traded $325,000 in General Allocation Money, split between two teams, to pick up the third and sixteenth picks in the draft. With those picks they chose Defenders midfield players. Wait, what? We all know that NYCFC really struggled on defense last year, and their high powered offense looked very stacked already. So what gives, Vieira? Ok, let’s break down who they got, because it’s actually looking pretty good.

Jonathan Lewis – 3rd overall pick – NYCFC’s top pick

Lewis is 19, born in Florida, and is a highly regarded midfielder/forward. He already ranked in the top 10 in TopDrawerSoccer’s draft board before exploding in the combine. He had two goals, looked sharp, and won the MVP for his efforts. Before that he had played one year at Akron U before signing a Generation Adidas deal turning him pro. He was called to the USMNT U20 camp and has gotten some calls from the Jamaican national team as well. He’s definitely a talented player.

What’s interesting about the pick though, is he’s basically a mirror image of Jack Harrison. He’s a fast winger with great ball skills and a penchant for goal. He is stronger with his right foot, while Jack is better with his left. He had 12 assists in his freshman year, Jack Harrison had 11 (at Wake Forest). Oh, and Jack Harrison is Lewis’ MLS Idol. So do we really need another Jack Harrison. Ummm. YES. An attack with two fast paced wingers would work wonders in the Vieira possession driven offense.

Right now they’ve got Harrison feeding balls to Villa up top, typically from the right side. Tommy McNamara plays them in from the left and sometimes sneaks to the middle for goal opportunities. Tommy has never been known for his speed, and I have a feeling Lewis is going to be slotting in on this left side.

Tommy can then push back into midfield to fill into Lampard’s role, which was basically the grease in the midfield. He’d collect passes from the defense and transition them into attacks, and also slip up into the middle to take shots. Tommy is a talented passer, can control the ball, and has a lethal right foot, so I think this makes more sense for him in Vieira’s scheme.

What Vieira needs on the left wing is someone who can burn defenses down the side and spread the width of the field a bit. This allows combos to be played on the left side that can spring Villa wide open behind the defense. It also gives the midfield and defenders an outlet for longer balls if possession is breaking down.

If Lewis can be an outlet in a wide position and keep it wide when setting up crosses, drawing players away from the middle, it gives space in the final third for players to get in position for shots and combos. Too often last year NYCFC was trying to push everything through the middle of the pitch, and with their limited field size at home especially, this is no good.

This type of player should fit really well in Vieira’s vision. He’s not a defender, but a speedy and quality player slotted in the left wing will have a quick impact on what Vieira can line up with.

Here’s his highlight reel from the MLS site: