David Villa was a one-man wrecking crew for NYCFC. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX, N.Y. — What David Villa is accomplishing is amazing, just simply amazing.
At the age of 35, which in some quarters is considered ancient for a striker, the New York City FC captain and striker finds himself leading Major League Soccer with 17 goals.
Just as important is the fact that he is the leader of NYCFC and his teammates are just happy to follow their leader.
Villa was at his best and most lethal in NYCFC’s 3-2 comeback win over the Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium Sunday night. He could not have time his first MLS hat-trick any better in the Hudson River Derby.
“He’s fantastic,” City head coach Patrick Vieira said. “He’s our leader when he’s performing like that – that lifts the team and players are behind him and follow him. So when David is playing very well, the team is playing well. And today was David.”
In triplicate as Villa tallied his first MLS hat-trick.
“He has been a tremendous player, his work ethic first and foremost I see that every single game and that’s what you want to see from your top scorer year after year his quality speaks for itself and big games call big players to step up and he put the team on his back,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said.
Being that leader is part of Villa’s DNA.
“I try to do my best always, in the training facility or in games,” he said. “I try to show the young players I arrived to where I arrive because I always give 100 percent on the pitch. Sometimes you can play well like today and score three goals and sometimes you can play bad like in Toronto the other day, like I did, but it is mandatory to give 100 percent and I try to do that. If they show me like a leader, it is a pleasure to me.”
Villa gave NYCFC a 1-0 lead before the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips turned around the momentum and the lead with goals late in the first half and 64th minute. Then it was all Villa as the Spanish World Cup champion found the net twice within a three-minute period as he transformed a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 advantage in the 75th minute.
“He’s a tough guy to deal with and Aaron Long had the responsibility of trying to take care of him a lot today,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said of his center back. “So you know, it’s a big experience for Aaron to be a part of and you know, he came up second on a few too many plays and that’s what happens when you play against high level guys. You have to understand that you have to be sharp upstairs. You have to be alert for every moment. You can’t give them any space because when you do he can hurt you. And obviously, he’s a quality player. There’s nothing more to say.”