Every few years in America, a player emerges onto the scene after an illustrious college career. Jack Harrison is the opposite. Before his college career, many people already knew of his immense talent. Harrison, who grew up in Bolton, England, spent 7 years in the Manchester United academy before moving to America at 14. Now, why on earth would a promising young footballer want to leave the Manchester United academy for America?
The answer lies in risk-averse parenting. Jack and his mother decided that he should have a fallback plan just in case football didn’t work out for him. In his case, the fallback plan was to move to America and study at Berkshire School because of the higher level of education. She must have had no idea how amazing her son would turn out. When he entered the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, New York City FC manager Patrick Vieira did everything he could to secure Jack. Unfortunately, Jack picked up an injury that sidelined him for the first three months of the season. Was it a blessing in disguise? While recovering from his pelvic injury, he shared the road to recovery with one of his idols growing up, Frank Lampard. The two have become good friends, and Jack has acknowledged that Frank taught him a lot. Frank, along with Vieira and David Villa, all speak highly of the New York City prospect.
“He’s a great kid. He has a really good attitude,” said Lampard. “I think when you see that in young players, that kind of rubs off on everybody, and is a statement to the young players like Jack, not because he’s English, but he’s just brought a real energy to the locker room, to the field.”
Jack Harrison started his debut season as a 19-year-old kid in a team full of European icons that he watched growing up. The Mancunian prospect debuted in an embarrassing 7-0 thrashing vs. crosstown rivals New York Red Bulls. MLSSoccer.com writer Nicholas Rosano described Jack’s performance as a “silver lining” for NYCFC. As a 57th minute substitute, Harrison seemed to make something happen every time he touched the ball. Two games later, he scored his first professional goal in his first professional start, and for the icing on the cake, he grabbed a great back heel assist to David Villa the next game. This was one of many compliments Jack picked up from top players such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Villa himself over the course of the season.
“When he has the ball at his feet, you get the sensation something is going to happen,” Villa said.
Jack Harrison played mostly on the right wing last season, but he was sometimes used on the left because of his fantastic crossing with his left. Jack being a part of Vieira’s game plan every weekend developed his game, and he fit in wonderfully in a 4-3-3 where Pirlo was delivering balls to Jack at every opportunity. Jack has a fantastic sense of awareness, and he’s technically superior to any 20-year-old in the MLS, and possibly in league history. His blistering pace creates chances aplenty, chasing down balls that most players wouldn’t be able to get to and winning corner kicks. Jack has extremely quick feet (a Montreal Impact defender found out the hard way). With his ability to run at defenders for his 90 minutes, and his immaculate style, he enjoyed a stellar debut season, earning a runner-up finish for MLS Goal of the Season.
Above all, Harrison has that ability to give defenders nightmares with his pace and dribbling. While they’re having nightmares, Jack keeps on dreaming of playing in the Premier League. Playing in England doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch taking into consideration that USA are trying to tie him up before England get the chance to cap him. As a teenager, he scored 4 goals in his debut season for his club and added 7 assists, while creating nearly 2 chances per game and successfully taking on 2 players per 90 minutes. Jack is one of NYCFC’s most exciting players, and he has already drawn interest from Ajax as well as a few clubs from his home country. Expect to hear more talks of Jack Harrison moving to Europe, as a return to his home country seems almost inevitable.
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