David Villa made a splash a few different ways for NYCFC Saturday. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — In the past decade, New York teams in Major League Soccer have produced its share of gold standard Designated Players who have had the ability to put the ball into the back of the net.
In 2007, Argentine forward Juan Pablo Angel started the tradition by joining the Red Bulls. A class act on and off the field, the Argentine scored 58 league goals in 100 appearances over four seasons while leading the club to the 2008 MLS Cup final.
In 2010, Thierry Henry picked up the mantle with the New Jersey-based team, help the side win the 2013 Supporters Shield and come a goal of reaching MLS Cup the next year. Realizing he did not have the same burst of speed that made him one of the world’s great scoring threats with 1998 World Cup winners France, Arsenal and Barcelona, Henry scored goals (51) and set them up as well (42) during his 122-game stint over 4 1/2-year seasons.
And in 2015, David Villa, fresh off the 2014 World Cup and Barcelona, joined New York City FC and became the heart and soul of the three-year-old expansion club.
And you know, it’s quite ironic that we are talking about gold standard because Villa hit a golden milestone in City’s 2-1 comeback victory over the Seattle Sounders Saturday afternoon.
He added two more goals to his tally, Nos. 50 and 51 to become the fifth fastest player to reach that MLS milestone (in 78 games) and the first DP to do so.
Through the years, many foreign players have joined MLS and used it as a retirement league. Villa, on the other hand, has used it as a stage to show that thirtysomething strikers still can strike fear into opposing teams, goalkeepers and defenders.
Perhaps no one appreciates him more than NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira, who, during his playing days had to contend with some of the trickiest playmakers and fiercest goal-scorers on the planet.
“To be honest, I’m not surprised because you have to look at David’s career and what he’s achieved,” Vieira said. “It’s not easy to be the top goal scorer in the Spanish history. It’s not easy to win the Champions League or win the World Cup. The quality is there and it’s always going to be there. He’s really good. He has passion and love for the game.
“In our society, we judge people a bit too early and a bit too quick and we just have to take it case by case and David’s is a positive one for the young players in our club and for the fans. He got rewarded, but what I really like about him is when he’s making it really difficult for the other team because he’s setting an example for the rest of the players.”
David Villa Sánchez's #Villa50 Post-Game Reaction
تم نشره بواسطة New York City FC في 17 يونيو، 2017
Video courtesy of NYCFC’s Facebook page
Villa put his mark on the match in the second half after Cristian Roldan beat center back Maxime Chanot and then goalkeeper Sean Johnson to put the defending MLS Cup champions on the scoreboard in the 40th minute.
“The most important is to forget about this goal,” Chanot said. “We’re disappointed as defenders obviously but the most important thing is we won the game and everybody will forget about the first goal, I’m sure.”
There is little chance anyone will forget about Villa’s goals in the comeback.
In first-half stoppage time, the Spaniard tried to nullify Roldan’s score with a blast from outside the area that bounded off the upper right corner of the net. As he walked off the field, a disappointed Villa kicked a sign in frustration.
Only seven minutes into the second half, that frustration turned to jubilation as the striker got his equalizer. He had to take a tumble to the soggy Yankee Stadium grass that was saturated with a good hour of torrential rain when referee Robert Sigiba ruled that Jamaican international Oniel Fisher took him down in the penalty area, though replays made it appear that the Seattle defender also got the ball.
On the ensuing kick, Villa rifled his attempt into the left side and lifted NYCFC into a tie for Goal NO. 50.
“It’s important for me because the goal is my goal always because I’m a striker,” Villa said.
As it turned out Villa snapped a three-game league scoring drought — four if you count Wednesday night’s 1-0 Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup elimination loss at the Red Bulls.
“My objective is not to score 50 goals,” said Villa, who played in his 78th MLS match. “It is to score 52. I am pained when I don’t score my goals. It doesn’t matter the numbers, I try to score for the team to win.”
Villa had to wait until the 77th minute to start on his next 50 MLS goals. Jack Harrison did some whirling and faking on the right side of the penalty area to work himself free just so he could strike a cross to the far side of the net to a waiting and unmarked Villa who slotted it home for the game-winner.
“I knew after David had crossed the ball to me he’d be on the back post, so I figured that’s where the space would be,” Harrison said. “David finished it off perfectly.”
To quite appropriately, finish off a perfect day.