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Packed 2021 USMNT calendar gives Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis opportunities to flash his talents

Colorado’s swift forward is in a good position to move up from the bench and joining U.S. starting XI

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

Colorado Rapids’ manager Robin Fraser is one of Jonathan Lewis’ champions. During a media call this past October, Fraser said of Lewis, “I think if you’re talking about what his potential value to the national team is, I think anyone who has a winger who can beat people one on one and certainly run in behind and finish, he offers a skill set that most people would be interested in.”

And that interest came during the first week of this new year when Lewis learned from both the United States Men’s Team (USMNT) U-23 manager, Jason Kreis, and senior team coach Greg Berhalter, that he had been invited to join the annual January men’s camp. This year, the gathering of the best is being held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Both senior and U-23 USMNTs face an unprecedented schedule in the month ahead. It starts with the U-23 Concacaf Regional Olympic qualifiers in March, followed by the Concacaf Nations League Final Four in June, the Gold Cup from July 2–August 1, plus the kick-off of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. Given the number of sequential tournaments and friendlies TBA, Kreis and Berhalter are banking on considerable depth in the U.S ranks to cover the anticipated need of field and reserve players.

During a recent interview with SiriusXM, Berhalter commented, “We’re going to have to call on 30 to 40 players next year. It’s going to have to be, because of the jammed calendar. ” He added, ”If there’s a positive to the congested schedule ahead, it’s the order in which it plays out. Starting the year with camps and friendlies, then shifting into the Nations League semifinals and final/third-place match and Gold Cup come summer, should allow the USMNT to ramp up towards the biggest priority of all: the road to Qatar 2022.”

Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis is hopeful to land on one of the two teams. The self-confident and always radiant 23-year old told the Burgundy Wave, “I just need to keep proving myself. I think for me, the U-23s are a great stepping stone to prove myself, and that I am ready to play in the senior team, and also to just have eyes on myself and the team. Again, it is a big opportunity to play in the Olympics qualifiers and possibly the Olympics with some of the best young players in the world. It provides me with opportunities to showcase myself to the world.”

Lewis brings a lot to the table. Fraser best describes his distinctions as “pace is lightning, he’s very, very quick and what he’s turning into is a really good finisher in some pretty difficult situations. So if he can continue to get behind his defenders, he’s a handful to deal with once he does. And out of that, like I said, he’s become a really dangerous finisher.”

During a virtual media call last week, Jason Kreis told the Burgundy Wave that “Lewis continues to be an interesting guy, mostly because of what be can bring for you in the attacking third. And what he can do for you when the game starts to become more open. Some of his best performance with Rapids have actually been when comes off the bench. And again, he is a guy like Benji Michel, where he has made a major, major impact on matches when he comes in as a substitute role. “

Kreis added, ”The challenge for him going forward and for this group, a different age group, is can he sustain those things from a starting role, and whether he makes an impact, and can he be disciplined in the starting role. So that is where I think his challenge is.”

In camp with Lewis are forwards Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC), and Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact/CAN). All seven are capable attackers.

When Lewis is called over the senior field, he will be in the company of a few big-name forwards, including Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), and Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC).

Lewis appreciates that this camp in particular is a golden opportunity to show his skill set and fervor. Lewis also recognizes how competitive the field is.

He explained his vision for success during his last interview with the Burgundy Wave. “I think that definitely there will be loads of rotation because especially since making the Olympics is something that we are going to take very seriously, I think there will be lots of rotation between the senior team and the U-23 team. I think that this going to be an opportunity for a lot of us, and not just myself, but the guys who are on the fringes of the senior team play in some of the games and rotate a lot between the Gold Cup games, some of World Cup qualifier games against the smaller teams.”

He continued, “There are going to be opportunities to prove ourselves. For me, it will be an exciting time. With [potential for] injuries and such, and players in my positions, I think there will opportunities that I can showcase myself, and get a chance to prove that I belong on the national team level.”

The USMNT will kick off their season with a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday, January 31 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. MT on FS1, UniMas, and TUDN; or follow along on Twitter @USMNT, Instagram @USMNT, Facebook, and the U.S. Soccer app.

Should Lewis flash his strong points and impress the coaches on the sidelines during the camp, we just might see Colorado Rapids’ Jonathan Lewis standing with the starting XI while sporting the red, white, and blue. And Rapids fans wish him all the luck.