“A testing first half of the year,” is the way Mikey Lopez describes his second season with New York City FC from offseason ankle surgery to rehabbing and trying to get back onto the field.
With Yangel Herrera away at the U-20 World Cup and Andrea Pirlo suffering an injury against Real Salt Lake on the midweek, Lopez had the chance he’s been waiting one full year for and he made the most of it in a 3-0 win over Orlando City Sunday night.
In his first start since last May 21, Lopez put forth a massive 90-minute effort. He had 47 touches, completed a team-high 94.4 percent of his passes and drew praise from NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira.
“Mikey had a terrific game. It’s not easy because we came on the field with a lot of pressure because it was important for us to win the game. But he came on and he kept the game really simple, moving the ball from right to left and left to right. He was really focused on his defensive duty. Today, he was really good. I’m really happy because he came back from injuries, he was struggling to get into the team, he was part of the 18, sometimes he was at home, but today he showed a lot of character and that’s really good for us.”
NYCFC captain David Villa was also impressed with the effort Lopez has put in, both in Sunday’s win and during training.
“I think it’s fair to say Mikey helped out a lot today. He had a great game. It’s not easy because it’s painful because of the injury, he doesn’t have minutes and the coach chooses him today and he gave a lot to the team. He’s a really good guy. He’s always training with intensity. He doesn’t care if he plays or doesn’t play, he trains always the same. He’s a player we need in our roster. I’m so, so happy for him.”
As for Lopez, who returned earlier than expected from January surgery, he was just happy to get a chance again, repay Vieira for his faith and help NYCFC pick up a much-needed win to end a treacherous road trip.
Mikey said …
“It felt amazing just to get the nod from the coach, just to get his confidence and know he chose me to start the game. It felt really good to get back on the field again and play a full 90.
We just stuck to the game plan and it worked out perfectly. He just told us to stay in, protect our back four, especially when we’re attacking to stop the counterattack and to keep the ball moving.
It’s been a testing first half of the year from the surgery and all the recovery and therapy and just getting back to training and working my butt off to get here. I’m thankful that I was able to recover as quickly and as well as I did. It was just a blessing I was able to get back here and play another game.
It was a little frustrating start to the road trip, but all that matters is that we ended on a high note and got the three points and four [points] out of nine. It’s OK, it’s decent and we also beat a conference team. Winning this game was all we were focused on and we’ve just got to look forward.”