Andre Rawls is a patient man.
The 25-year old goalkeeper waited two years to pull on the NYCFC jersey on gameday.
That wait finally came to an end in Wednesday’s Desert Diamond Cup match against Red Bulls when he was introduced as a second half substitute.
A Californian native, Rawls has improved exponentially since he swapped West Coast for East following the club’s pick-up in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and was rewarded with this 30-minute run-out in Tucson.
Charting his progression from his first-year loan spell at Wilmington Hammerheads to now, Andre admits it’s been a huge 12 months in his career.
He told NYCFC.com: “For me, it’s been night and day. I remember when I first came into the club and I was way farther back than I am now – just being able to see that growth and that progression through only a year has been fantastic.”
Rawls knows he’ll have to continue this progression to compete for starts in 2017, especially since the arrival of Sean Johnson from Chicago Fire.
With Eirik Johansen also looking to nail down that no.1 spot, the trio are both friends and competitors under the guidance of Goalkeeper Coach Rob Vartughian.
Rawls said: “Preseason has been great with Sean coming in – he’s been a great guy, he’s been awesome to work and he’s had a lot of years in the league, so he’s very helpful giving advice here and there.
“The group as a whole is good – everyone is friendly and at the same time we’re really pushing each other because we know there’s only one spot which we’re all fighting for.
“Nobody really understands goalkeepers except for goalkeepers – we have that little union of us and we know that we’ve got to be there to pick one another up. We’ve got to be on each other’s team – we’re teammates as well as competitors.”
Rawls marked his debut with a clean sheet in the 2-0 defeat to Red Bulls and looked assured in the few bits of action he saw with NYCFC chasing the game.
Although it was a game that ended in defeat for Patrick Vieira’s men, Andre believes that, at this stage of preseason, the result was secondary.
“It was great – I was just telling myself in my head to have fun, to do what you do, you’ve been training for this,” he reflected.
“I think I just went in there saying, ‘do what you’re used to’ and I think it worked pretty well.
“It’s still preseason so we’ve got to see everybody in every position and I think that, for us, it was more of a building game than a full-on competitive game.
“That’s not to take away from the competitive edge we had against Red Bulls – anytime we go against them, it’s going to be a fight but we said in the locker room that the score was kind of irrelevant and we just wanted to focus on our principles that define us as NYCFC and the way we want to play.”
Playing out from the back is an important element in this system of play for the last line of defense and it’s one that Rawls is happy to adopt, even if it’s not a style of goalkeeping he adopted in his college days.
He added: “It’s something that takes some adapting to – it’s not the style I was used to, coming out of college but I definitely like it.
“I like the idea of being more possession-oriented rather than playing the kick and run kind of style. You feel like more of the team and contribute more to the beauty of the game.”
With the debut checked off his NYCFC, now Rawls will aim to continue his dramatic improvement in the year ahead to pull on that jersey again on gameday at Yankee Stadium.
As he puts it, the privilege would be all his.
He added: “It’s an honor for me to represent NYCFC – anytime I can wear the badge, I wear it with pride. It’s a huge deal to me and I just hope I can bring the city honor and bring it home for the fans.”