NYCFC hopes Malachi Jones can return this season after broken leg

New York City FC isn’t ruling out a return this season for forward Malachi Jones.

Jones, 20, suffered a scary leg injury when he collided with Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar inside the penalty area during a June 28 match between the two clubs, and he underwent surgery to repair a broken tibia and fibula of the right leg days later. 

Though NYCFC isn’t placing any sort of timeline on Jones’ return, sporting director David Lee told The Post on Wednesday that “there’s a chance he could return before the end of the season.” 

New York City FC forward, Malachi Jones, controls the soccer ball during a match against Nashville SC at Geodis Park.
New York City FC forward Malachi Jones controls the ball in the second half against Nashville SC at Geodis Park. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“I think we won’t know that probably for another number of weeks before we get a real sort of best estimate of how the surgery has settled and how he’s doing,” Lee said. “But we’re hopeful and we won’t rule him out. If he’s available to play in games this season we’d love to see it.”

Jones was at NYCFC’s training facility in Orangeburg on Wednesday, and Lee said he had seen the forward walking without crutches for the first time.

Montefiore Medical Center, which is where Jones had his procedure done earlier this month, posted a video on social media Wednesday of the star walking without crutches inside its facility while noting that he was “already walking only a few days from surgery.” 

Though NYCFC is eager to get Jones — the No. 8 overall pick in MLS SuperDraft 2024 — Lee conveyed that they wouldn’t rush him back and risk his long-term health. 

“Malachi is someone we believe has a massive future and we’ll make the best long-term decision that we can,” Lee said. 

Jones made the jump from college to the pros after playing two years at Lipscomb University in a somewhat seamless transition.

He had become a bright spot on an NYCFC club that is sitting in fifth in the Eastern Conference — just one point behind the rival Red Bulls. 

New York City FC forward Malachi Jones (88) battles New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Edelman (75) for the ball during the first half at Citi Field.
New York City FC forward Malachi Jones battles Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Edelman for the ball during the first half at Citi Field. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Jones had become a regular for the first team after being expected to spend this year developing with NYCFC II.

In 14 appearances, he has started four games, scored a goal and recorded three assists. 

His first career MLS goal came on May 11 against Toronto FC. 

Impressively, only Santiago Rodriguez, Hannes Wolf and Tayvon Gray have more assists this season than Jones. 

Lee said NYCFC had noticed his “unique” one-on-on ability when they scouted him in college, and he believed that it has helped Jones make the leap to MLS so easily. 

“I think that’s what helped him perform and I think he probably could have had another couple of goals,” Lee said. “I think he’s made such a big impact with his performances and part of what I think is a really strong attacking group of players. Where there’s a lot of competition for places. 

“There are difficult decisions for (head coach Nick Cushing) every single week on which players don’t make the squad and don’t make the 11 and I think Malachi pushed himself into that role until unfortunately, the injury came.”

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