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Hey MLS, Zeiko Lewis is Too Good to Pass Up

It would be easy to overlook Zeiko Lewis.

At 5-foot-6, the Bermudan midfielder is a small player from a small country competing for an underrated soccer team. With five goals and five assists, the senior is on pace for his second-worst statistical season as an Eagle. His three straight All-ACC Second Team selections suggest both success and plateaued progress, and Lewis would be fortunate to add yet another Second Team berth this year. Plus, because college soccer is seldom televised, only those in attendance will actually see the game, leaving others—like MLS scouts—to largely judge performances based on stats alone.

For Lewis, that might not be enough. He played in his last regular season game on Saturday, and the 2017 MLS SuperDraft is right around the corner in January. There’s only four rounds and 22 teams, which begs the question: Is he one of the 88 best players in college soccer?

The answer is absolutely. Frankly, I’d be offended if he fell past the first round.

2017 MLS SuperDraft

Lewis, also known as the “Bermudan Blur,” is consistently the most explosive player on the pitch, even against elite ACC talent. (Editor’s note: Only Riley calls him this.) The 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year led the conference in assists with 11 in his rookie campaign, thanks to his Steve Nash-like knack for seeing plays before they develop. During the last match of the regular season versus NC State last weekend, he broke the BC record for career assists with his 26th and 27th in a 5-4 overtime win. Not to mention he has experience scoring at all levels, from the Eagles to the Real Boston Rams of the USL Premier Development League to a World Cup Qualifier with the Bermudan National Team. His soccer IQ is off the charts, and so is his touch. Lewis does things with a soccer ball that I didn’t think were humanly possible.

2017 MLS SuperDraft

Watch closely: before he even touches the ball, he is already starting his spin move. In one swift motion, Lewis redirects the pass into open space with his left foot and turns past his defender. By the time the poor defender realizes what’s happening, he’s a step behind Lewis, who toasts another opponent for good measure.

Sequences like these, which showcase his glaring pro potential, are routine for the 21-year-old. A typical game for Lewis features a few nutmeg passes, Vine-worthy (R.I.P.) jukes, and beautiful balls that set up scoring chances—all of which never appear on a scoresheet.

When he does show up on the scoresheet, it always seems to be in the biggest moments. Last season, he assisted on Simon Enstrom’s game-winning goal against No. 10 Virginia, as well as both game-winning goals against Vermont and No. 15 USF in the NCAA Tournament. Most recently, with his team down 1-0 in the first round of the ACC Tournament against No. 23 Virginia Tech, Lewis netted the equalizer at the end of a clever run through the entire Hokie back line.

I am convinced that Lewis would have been an outstanding slot receiver had he taken up the other football as a child. His cuts are sharp and vicious, and he might be quicker than every BC football player other than Jeff Smith. Too often are defenders running toward their own goal to catch up with Lewis. He has a keen ability to recognize where the nearest open space is, bait his defenders closer, and leave them in the dust with one-two passing combinations. In the clip above, he recognizes where the nearest open space on the field is, baits his defenders closer, and leaves them in the dust with a one-two passing combo that catalyzes the attack. There is no treatment for the Zeiko Virus, another one of his many awesome nicknames. (Editor’s note: Again, only Riley calls him this.)

2017 MLS SuperDraft

The only time I can clearly recall Lewis not being the best player on the field was against Wake Forest last year when he went head-to-head with a fellow ACC Freshman of the Year. British sensation Jack Harrison, who won the award in 2015, carved up the Eagle defense for two goals in a 5-0 blowout on a cold October night. He was utterly dominant on the wing, emphasizing possession over playmaking until just the right time.

“He should go home now,” head coach Ed Kelly told me after that game. “He’s wasting his time in college—not for his education, I mean soccer-wise.”

A former teammate of Lewis’s at the acclaimed Berkshire School, Harrison spent time with Manchester United’s youth academy until his mother decided to send him to the United States for a proper education. His unconventional path to soccer stardom has taken him from academies, to prep schools, to Wake Forest, and, now, to the MLS, where he was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in January.

Lewis also faced off against the 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year, Tim Kubel, when No. 9 Louisville visited Newton Campus Field in September. This time, it was Lewis who got the better of a fellow honoree, scoring an 86th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 tie. One mock draft projects Kubel going first overall in the upcoming SuperDraft.

The point is, Lewis certainly belongs in the same league as his Freshman of the Year successors. But it’s hard to gauge whether MLS teams hold the same opinion. Given that the hype surrounding the SuperDraft is nowhere near that of the NBA or NFL drafts, there’s not exactly an abundance of mock drafts on the internet. In fact, I only found two, and Lewis was included in just one. I thought I had discovered a third list on DraftSite.com, only to find updated rankings for the WNBA and an MLS mock draft from after the 2013 season.

Okay, so maybe there’s about as much hype for this SuperDraft as there was for your fantasy football draft this year. But that doesn’t change the fact that Lewis deserves to hear his name called in two months when the league gathers in Los Angeles for the first two rounds.

Last year, I followed the journey of BC defender Toby Ampadu, a fan-favorite during the Eagles’ Cinderella run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Kelly pushed for Ampadu to get exposure to MLS, NASL, and USL teams after he graduated, and I, naively, was optimistic about his odds. When the SuperDraft rolled around, I watched as four rounds passed by without mention of the Ghana native, putting his dream of remaining in the U.S. in peril. After covering this program for two seasons, it would pain me to see Lewis suffer the same fate.

2017 MLS SuperDraft

It doesn’t take a professional scout to recognize the extraordinary talent Lewis has been blessed with, but it does require video footage. In any sport, stats don’t paint the full picture, but it’s especially the case in soccer, where the spark of a scoring opportunity is often left uncredited and one’s numbers rely so heavily on the play of his teammates. Scouts evaluating players on who scored the most goals or tallied the most assists are simply barking up the wrong tree. The story of Zeiko Lewis is not a numbers narrative, but a tale of the tape—one that is begging not to be overlooked and screams first-round draft pick.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

November 3, 2016