It's well and truly Derby week, and as the anticipation of Friday's match heats up on both sides of the Hudson River, speculation over who will win the Supporters' Shield is heating up around the league.
With a win on Friday, NYC can keep the gap between themselves and Toronto FC at the top of the league to four points. Toronto has lost just three matches all season, but just because NYCFC is down doesn't mean they're out. After all, City are as resilient as they come, and their penchant for bouncing back has served them well this year.
As CBS New York's Jeff Capellini points out, they've just got those intangibles.
Capellini: NYCFC Isn't A Perfect Side, But Its Resiliency Is Off The Charts https://t.co/qdBBv1poil— CBS New York (@CBSNewYork) August 22, 2017
He notes: "Perhaps its most impressive stat this season is the following: NYCFC has managed to grab 19 points in the standings out of matches in which it has trailed.
"Take Sunday night’s 2-1 win over New England, for example. It would have been easy for the boys in blue to get frustrated considering how well their opponents defended for the first 76 minutes."
As we all know, and as Jeff explains, they did not get frustrated—they got even.
Elsewhere, it seems as though the general consensus is this: If NYCFC are going to make a run at the shield, Jonathan Lewis is going to play a big role.
SBI Soccer's Ryan Tolmich certainly thinks so, and he wrote about Lewis finding his goalscoring touch today.
About the rookie's recent performances, he writes,
"Over the past two weeks, that fearlessness has been on full display as Lewis has bagged his first two MLS goals. On Sunday night against the New England Revolution, Lewis showed the poise of a veteran, slotting home a stoppage-time winner to earn a vital three home points."
Why are players like Lewis so important at this point in New York City's season? Success in MLS isn't a one man show.
"Now, the rewards are falling to NYCFC as the club has put faith in some of its younger stars," notes Tolmich. "Sure, David Villa will always be the straw the stirs the drink, but younger talents will need to play their part as well."
For even more context on how City's youngsters are rounding into form at just the right time, head over to Hudson River Blue. The local blog has a little something written about how Lewis has been able to take advantage of his minutes when they've come.
After being left off the final U.S. U-20 roster for this summer's World Cup, Lewis knew he had work to do.
"Lewis took the disappointment in stride," writes Calvin Daniel, "Using it as motivation to focus on breaking into the first team in the Five Boroughs. After an inspired substitute performance against the Philadelphia Union in June, he began making his case for more playing time, an opportunity he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to have."
Even though he's got—by far—the fewest minutes of anyone on Soccer America's top rookies list, Jonathan Lewis has the second most goals. Plus, he's got the most game-winning goals, and that's why he's shooting up the list.
Paul Kennedy writes: "Playing time never comes easy for MLS rookies, and it was especially true of top SuperDraft picks in 2017. But one player is making the most of his chance late in the season: No. 3 pick Jonathan Lewis with back-to-back winning goals for New York City FC.
"The Generation adidas signing out of Akron played all of 23 minutes for the first four and a half months of the season but has come into his own in the last month with the game-winning goals in NYCFC's last two games."
It's not just New York City's attackers that are stepping up. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson is surging this year for NYC after spending seven seasons in Chicago. This past summer, he was back with the U.S. National Team, and according to him, that won't be the last time he gets a call from Bruce Arena. ESPN FC has the full story.
"Ever since being with New York City," recalls Johnson, "I've obviously received a chance to be in an environment with good players, tremendous staff and that's definitely helped where we are in the table and individually, it's helped me grow as a player and helped me get back here with the national team."