David Villa is only two appearances away from 100 international caps. (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer Photo)
It was a pretty good weekend for New York City FC players in World Cup qualifying:
* Midfielder Alex Ring connected for the game-winning goal in Finland’s 1-0 victory over Iceland, his country’s first win of this competition.
* Forward Rodney Wallace came on as a late substitute in Costa Rica’s stunning 2-0 win over the United States.
* And team captain David Villa made his 98th international for Spain in its 3-0 triumph over Italy.
Villa, Major League Soccer’s leading goal-scorer, returned to Spain after a three-year absence as an 87th-minute substitute at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
He didn’t score as Isco tallied twice and Alvaro Morata once boosted the first-place Spaniards (6-0-1, 19 points) in UEFA Group G to a three-point lead over the Italians (5-1-1, 16)
“Thanks to everyone for showing me so much affection,” Villa said. “It’s been a very special day and I’m very happy. It was a great win against Italy and qualification rests with us. Isco’s a great lad, he’s doing well and I’m very happy about what’s happening to him at the moment.
“I never lost my enthusiasm for coming here and I must thank those who have shown faith in me. I’ll continue working.”
Villa, a member of Spain’s 2010 World Cup championship side, entered the match with only minutes left on the clock as fans chanted his name for most of the second half before receiving the call from head coach Julen Lopetegui finally gave them what they wanted.
He made his first international appearance since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ring struck a free kick for the only goal of Group I match in Helsinki. Finland (1-5-1, 4), which already has been eliminated from World Cup contention, next plays Kosovo on the road in Shkoder Tuesday night.
Wallace won for the third time at Red Bull Arena in three competitions this year. NYCFC won in MLS competition and with the Ticos in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.
Costa Rica is firmly ensconced in second place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal with a 4-1-2 mark and 14 points. The Central Americans host first-place Mexico Tuesday night.