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Jesus Medina Is Running Out of Time

Why NYCFC’s youngest Designated Player needs to start producing... and fast.

MLS: D.C. United at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, the most noticeable impact player in New York City FC’s 4-0 loss to Toronto FC was Alejandro Pozuelo. In his MLS debut, the Spanish attacking midfielder absolutely cut up City’s back four grabbing two goals and an assist. This vulgar display of technical superiority reminded onlookers of how vital Designated Players are to MLS teams and why it is so important they produce more often than they don’t.

Unfortunately for New York City, you can say that only two of their three DP’s have been producing to this point: Alexandru Mitrita and Maxi Moralez. And then you have Jesus Medina...

Upon his arrival, Medina brought a sense of optimism to the club. With fans still recovering from the disaster era that gave us past-your-prime stars like Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, it was refreshing to see NYCFC splashing the cash on the 20-year-old Medina who could potentially carry us into a new era and produce for many seasons to come.

And at first, that possibility seemed realized when in his first MLS game against Sporting Kansas City last year, Medina assisted and scored in a 2-0 win on the road. The hype had been realized!

And the production didn’t stop, either. The Paraguayan would go on to gain 5 assists in his first six games and became one of the premier young players in the league.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon didn’t last long after that.

Towards the end of April, Medina’s overall production began to waver as City approached the summer. Then, in June, manager Patrick Vieira announced that he was stepping down from the club in favor of coaching Nice in France. In his place came Domé Torrent.

Much like in the beginning of the season, Medina’s initial productivity was really good under his new manager. In his first 8 games under Torrent, Medina assisted on two goals and scored four of his own until he missed the second half of August and most of September leading up to the playoffs.

And since then, those shining performances have ceased and the Medina we once looked at as a breath of fresh air soon turned into a fart in an elevator.

Medina’s last goal was on August 4, 2018 in a 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps. His last assist? July 11 of that year. This... isn’t good. Especially for a player that is supposed to be integral to NYCFC’s success and is collecting one of the biggest paychecks within the club.

Granted, Medina’s sharp decline isn’t all his fault. A lot of it falls on the shoulders of manager Domé Torrent.

Under Vieira, Medina was one of the more effective players on the pitch at any given moment. The former French gaffer would often start the Paraguayan winger on the right wing, allowing Medina to cut in onto his dominant left foot and take either a shot on goal or a ball into space. When that approach wouldn’t work, Vieira would then swap the wings and place Medina on the left where his primary job would be to distribute the ball from the wing to either David Villa or Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.

This approach worked for the team more often than not, even when Medina wasn’t stuffing the stat sheet in the more sexy categories like goals and assists.

Outside of his initial run, however, it seems that Domé has struggled to effectively implement Medina into his system the same way Vieira did, in addition to pretty much ruining everything else.

Too often, Medina looks lost out on the pitch and unable to make a tangible difference on the game’s outcome. And he’s not the only one, which makes that a tactical error.

With all of that being said, though, Medina has to take some responsibility as well.

Even with the best plan in place, a player must assert himself and show why he is the right man for the job. And when push has come to shove, Medina has failed to do that time and time again. And despite his young age, time is very much not on his side.

Alexandru Mitrita — NYCFC’s newest DP — is now the man at the left wing, and that isn’t going to change any time soon — effectively eliminating any possibility of swapping the wings mid-game. Now combine that with the recent arrival of Héber, the scintillating talent of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Domé’s strange affinity for Taty Castellanos, and the steady rise of Jonathan Lewis...

All of these factors add up to one thing: Jesus Medina is running out of time to make an impact and prove why he deserves not just his spot in the lineup, but one of those three precious DP slots as well. Because if he doesn’t get his shit together soon, it will get to the point of “if you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who will.” And honestly, has Medina done anything in these past few games that would have us think “yeah, we need this guy?”

The summer transfer window is only a few months away. And if Medina continues to struggle into the dog days of those MLS summers, it won’t only be Domé’s job at stake.

The ball’s in your court, kid. Prove them wrong. Prove me wrong.