By Glenn Crooks
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Born in Stoke-on-Kent but raised in Bolton, United Kingdom, Harrison is the anti-Mac. He has a short crop of hair and can break down defenders with pace alone. Tommy Mac features his familiar long locks and relies on guile and conviction rather than rapid movements.
Harrison, a product of the Manchester United Academy, is not merely a fleet front runner. He is an astute examiner of the game. His keen awareness was amplified when he assisted David Villa’s league-leading 11th goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Union. Harrison was on a break and a pair of Union defenders caught up to him.
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“Right at the last moment, the defender pushed me a little bit,” said Harrison. “I had a glance back and just saw a blue shirt. I wasn’t sure who it was.”
His back heel on the move entrusted Villa to finish with his left peg beyond a sprawling Andre Blake at the near post.
“I screamed,” explained Villa with a smile. “Jack is always 100 percent concentrating. The team is better with him. He’s really good for the team and obviously for me.”
“It was a great finish by David,” remarked Harrison, who scored his first professional goal against Real Salt Lake before the international break.
Meanwhile, coach Patrick Vieira endeavors to mute the level of expectations of the first overall pick in the 2016 MLS Super Draft.
“What’s happening to him now never happened to him before,” said Vieira. “When young players are doing well, they can be put where they are not yet by you guys (the media). There is a big difference between playing one game, two games, three games really well or having a career that lasts 15 years.”
Vieira believes that the 19-year-old Harrison, who has made just three appearances, including two starts, is a humble athlete.
“He can handle it. His head is on his shoulder, and he has a really good family,” said Vieira. “But we don’t know how he is going to react. It is our job with the experience I have and Claudio (Reyna) as the sporting director to protect him.”
NYCFC needs Harrison in the lineup. He provides an auspicious complement to McNamara and Villa. He has forged ahead of last year’s top overall pick, Khiry Shelton. Harrison has a better soccer brain, and Vieira favors those individuals who can respond to the myriad morphs in the run of play.
How long before we see @CultofJack?
• Harrison admitted that he is a Liverpool supporter (to the chagrin of his grandfather in Bolton). On Aug. 20, he may have a chance to play against Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, when the LA Galaxy visit Yankee Stadium.
“I actually used to be at Liverpool Academy as well,” said Harrison. “When I was really young, I was able to meet him in the players’ lounge – he was on crutches at the time. I don’t think he’ll remember that.”READ MORE: VIDEO: Startup Mortgage Company Fires Hundreds Of Employees On Zoom Call; Experts Say This Is Part Of 'New Normal'
Perhaps Harrison can present something extraordinary to jolt Gerrard’s memory.
“It would be amazing to play against him.”
• Villa was fuming at the conclusion of the Union game. He sprinted to Ethan White with hand gestures indicating that a ball should have been cleared far up the field. Frank Lampard was unable to put a clamp on the tirade which included a frustrated toss of his shin guards.
Why all the fuss?
“I was very upset,” said Villa. “We give presents again — two goals for presents. We can’t keep doing this.”
NYCFC’s 3-0 lead evaporated to a one-goal advantage late in the match – an all-too-familiar scenario. On the final whistle, R.J. Allen and his mates were spared a regrettable moment when Allen clumsily tripped Roland Almer in the area.
“It was tense,” understated Vieira. “We are still fragile and not defending well under pressure. When we conceded the first goal in the second half, mentally we were a little scared of the last game we played at home.”
Ahead 1-0, RSL rallied to defeat NYCFC, 3-2 on June 1.
“I thought we were playing well. Once they scored, they had the momentum,” said Harrison after the demoralizing loss to RSL. “That’s something else we have to work on. Just the final minutes – focusing.”
It’s an issue that continued to linger against the Union.
• New York City is in Seattle on Saturday to face the Sounders, who lead Major League Soccer – as always – averaging just under 40,000 for home matches at CenturyLink Field. Seattle has not played at home since a 1-0 loss to Colorado on May 21. The Sounders had won their previous four at CenturyLink.
NYCFC has won 50 percent of its matches away from Yankee Stadium. That is the top road figure in MLS, where the league average is 18.1 percent.
McNamara ranks fifth in MLS with 1.07 goals plus assists per 90 minutes in away matches. He trails Sebastian Giovinco (TFC), Didier Drogba (Impact), Pedro Morales (Whitecaps) and Giovani dos Santos (Galaxy).
• I had a rewarding experience moderating an exclusive Q-and-A for season ticket holders last Monday night at Carraghers, on West 39th Street in Manhattan. “City in the Boroughs” affords City members the opportunity to meet players and staff. NYCFC president Jon Patricof, sporting director Claudia Reyna and center back/fullback Ethan White all answered various questions from the supporters.
I met a female supporter who shared with me her card to promote a networking idea for women called City Celestes.
“We are a network of NYCFC fans who self-identify as women coming together to talk about the team, soccer and life.” reads the card. “We are part of a number of Supporters Groups and Social Clubs and we sit throughout the stadium, but we all love NYCFC. Every woman is welcome. No fee to join. We Are One.”
You can join City Celestes on Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter @CityCelestes.MORE NEWS: Slow Internet Speeds Plague NYCHA Tenants Waiting For Upgrade