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New York City FC signs academy product Tayvon Gray, becomes first Bronx native to sign with club

Defender Tayvon Gray is the club's first Bronx native. (NYCFC.com)

New York City FC announced Tuesday that defender Tayvon Gray has signed his first professional contract with the club, becoming the first Bronx native to sign with NYCFC.

Gray said: "I'm very excited to sign for New York City FC. I'm a Bronx kid and this is my hometown team, so to start my professional career in New York City is a dream come true.

"When I first heard about NYCFC, they were very new, but once I saw what they were all about, I definitely wanted to play for them. I'll be proud to represent my team in the Bronx. My family is still here, so it will be very exciting to have them at games.

"There are too many people to thank. I'd like to thank God, my family for the support and love to help me get to this point, and everyone in the academy staff. I've learned from some incredible coaches and played with some great teammates over the years and I wouldn't have been able to get here without them."

The 17-year-old and U.S. youth international is NYCFC's fourth player to graduate from the academy ranks, joining James Sands, Joe Scally and Justin Haak.

NYCFC sporting director David Lee said: "Tayvon's been in our academy for the past few years and really developed over the last 18 months and we couldn't be more excited for him to join our first team and be with us for the future. 

"Signing the contract is the first step for him to continue his development. He's got a lot of potential and can play a number of positions -- we've seen him play as a center back, a right back and in holding midfield -- so we want to support his development and help him to maximize his potential.

"We've seen him as a future homegrown player for a while and we're really delighted to get the signing completed."

Gray has been a centerpiece of the NYCFC Academy since joining the club in 2017 with the U-17s. In 2019, he anchored the backline on the U-19 team who became the first club to win back-to-back U-19 U.S. Development Academy National Championships. 

NYCFC academy director Sam Pugsley said: "Tayvon's pathway to professional soccer is a great success story. He started in the talent centers that we run and after performing well, he came into the academy, and coming from The Bronx, it's extra special." 

Pugsley said: "Over the years, with Rodrigo Marion and Matt Pilkington's coaching, guidance and leadership on the field day-to-day, he really matured and got to the point he's at today.

"Tayvon has been an integral part of what we've built here and the success we've had on the field. He's a great person and you see the joy of Tayvon when he's on the field and how much he enjoys playing soccer."

Gray was one of five academy players to join the club's 2019 preseason in Abu Dhabi and continued to train with the first team regularly throughout the season. 

Recently, Gray started two matches for the United States U-17 National Team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil.

Lee said: "Tayvon had interest from clubs abroad and has done very well with the U.S. National Team, so it's a testament to the work the academy has done, and everyone at the club, that Tayvon sees this as the right step for his career." 

Gray will join full-time with the first team when the club opens preseason on Jan. 11.

The defender said: "Since I've come into the academy, my goal was to one day make it to the first team. I've been able to train and go on preseason with them before, but to now sign a professional contract is an amazing feeling. I'm ready to work as hard as I can to help this team achieve what we all want, to win the league."