Spotlight on Khiry Shelton v Columbus

Khiry Shelton is a student of the game.

And as he stood next to Patrick Vieira on the touchline before replacing Steven Mendoza in the 66th minute Sunday, Shelton received his assignment.

“He told me to just press on and try to get a goal,” Shelton said. “That was my objective from the first minute I stepped on the field.”

Shelton didn’t need much time to complete his assignment, scoring his fourth goal of the year just two minutes after Jack Harrison broke a one-all draw en route to a New York City FC’s 4-1 win over Columbus Crew SC in the regular season finale at Yankee Stadium.

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The goal came on a quick counter with Harrison springing Shelton up the right flank. The pacy winger slipped a low shot inside the far post from just outside the 18-yard box for his fourth goal of the season.

“I just get super excited because there’s not a lot of times you get an opportunity to win the game. I saw the space open up and I saw Jack get the ball and I had to make my run,” Shelton said. “Played the ball right where I wanted, I was able to do my thing. I ended up dabbing at the end for my celebration, just a little banter for the fans and whatnot so they could get a laugh out of it.”

Shelton will likely watch the goal, and the game, a few times before breaking it down with Professor Vieira, as has been the case so often this season.

“What I like about Khiry is he’s a really good person. He wants to learn, he loves the game,” Vieira said. “He’s the one that when he’s going back home, he’s going to watch the game, he’s going to look at his performance, he’s going to take some moment in the game he really didn’t understand and he will come to my office and we will go through that.”

According to Vieira, Shelton’s thirst for knowledge, work ethic and desire to be a better player helps him find scoring situations.

“For me, this is a player who wants to improve, who wants to help the team,” Vieira said. “I’m not surprised at all when he came on he worked hard for the team and got the ball he deserved.”

Shelton’s education doesn’t just come from Vieira and the coaching staff. It has also involved the team’s veteran players like David Villa and Frank Lampard. The end result has been a better understanding of his role and a greater comfort level in the attacking third, especially with Villa and Harrison.

Read: Patrick Vieira hails players following Columbus win

“We have fluidity between all three of us and just all the attacking players in general,” Shelton said. “We’re footballers and when things click, it feels so great.”

Shelton has even more time to learn now with NYCFC earning the No. 2 seed and a bye into the two-legged Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It’s another new lesson for the budding star.

“It’s very exciting,” Shelton said. “This is my first rodeo. Some of the veterans have been here before so they know what’s happening, but I’m very excited and I know the rest of the guys are excited.”

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