Before kicking a ball in competitive action in the United States, Andre Lewis became a known quantity.
After training, receiving a contract offer and signing with the New York Cosmos, Lewis was taken seventh overall in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft by the Vancouver Whitecaps. In the wake of the situation it left confusion and possibly some egg on MLS’s faces having brought an already-signed player into the SuperDraft.
However, Vancouver never had any concerns with using their pick on Lewis. The Whitecaps were assured by MLS that they held Lewis’ rights if drafting him and wanting to keep him long-term, Whitecaps Director of Professional Teams Greg Anderson told SoccerWire.com.
Both clubs currently view the 19-year-old as their player.
“We won’t have to give up something to keep Andre. He’s our player should we decide to keep him and we expect we will,” said Anderson.
However, Lewis is technically on loan to the Whitecaps, who then loaned him out to their USL Pro affiliate Charleston Battery.
When asked if the Cosmos were expecting to receive compensation from Vancouver, the North American Soccer League club’s head coach and technical director Giovanni Savarese was more diplomatic.
“I think it’s something we have to discuss with Vancouver. In the end he’s our player at the moment and we’ll see what happens in the future,” he said.
‘We have to talk with them and see what will come out of it. Not everything is set in stone. We know that we’ve given them the loan to play and at the end we’ll discuss that with Vancouver.”
While the Cosmos have been in contact with Lewis during his time in Charleston as well as tracking his progress – Savarese admitted they could be in touch more often – Lewis may just want to stay with the MLS side. When asked about the thought process that went into signing with the Cosmos before entering the SuperDraft he politely answered, “Can we talk about the Whitecaps? I’m more focused about the Whitecaps.”
If he is to make it to the Whitecaps first team, Lewis knows he has a long way to go. After beginning his career with Portmore United in his native Jamaica, there were several adjustments Lewis had to make when sent to the Battery.
“It’s more professional. Adjustments playing the games are more difficult, much harder, much quicker and more physical players I’m playing against [and] smarter players,” he said.
So far the Whitecaps have been happy with his progress.
“The reports that we’ve gotten and the games we’ve watched, we’ve been really happy with his progress. He’s a young player that needs to work on specific areas of his game, but he’s shown that he can take instruction and put it into practice and I know the coaches were happy with how he started to develop with specific areas of his game,” said Anderson.
“He was one of the better, if not the best player, we had there on loan over the course of his time there.”
However, Lewis’ time in Charleston has come with a major setback. Playing in an exhibition match with the University of South Carolina, the Jamaican youth international tore his ACL while making a tackle. He was slated to undergo surgery on his birthday earlier this week.
“The doctor said six to eight months. To get back to the level that I want to be at to be in the MLS, it should be eight months,” Lewis said.
After suffering the injury, the midfielder does have some trepidation on where his future will lie.
“I’m frustrated and worried the coaches didn’t see me so I always wonder what the thought is for next year and if I’m going to get the chance with the Whitecaps next year,” he said.
Lewis was expected to join up with the MLS club in September after his loan spell with the Battery was over. While he won’t get that chance, he has been reassured by head coach Carl Robinson.
“Coach Carl tells me I will be fine and just focus on rehab and getting back,” Lewis said.
The Whitecaps are willing to be patient with Lewis and it looks like he will have a place somewhere with the MLS club whether it be in Vancouver or back out on loan.
“That’s something we’ll decide as he goes through his rehabilitation and recovery and it’s a decision we’ll make when he gets back on the field,” said Anderson about where Lewis may play next season.
If the Whitecaps have a change of heart, Lewis should have a spot on the Cosmos to continue his career in the NASL if he so chooses.
“He’s our player. He’s been loaned so he’s part of the plans [for the Cosmos],” Savarese said.