David Villa finished this season with 22 goals. (Vincent Carchietta?USA TODAY Sports)
By Christian Arnold
QUEENS, N.Y. – The fans chanted M-V-P as David Villa prepared for a penalty kick in the closing minutes of Sunday’s 2-2 draw between NYCFC and Columbus Crew SC.
The New York City FC captain had certainly earned those chants with his clutch performance that led to City – with some outside help – to lock up the second seed in the Eastern Conference and clinch a knockout-round bye in the postseason.
Villa scored both New York’s goals and was aggressive in creating scoring opportunities throughout the 90-minute affair.
A missed penalty kick in stoppage time in the second half that could have won the game was Villa’s only blemish on an impressive afternoon.
It had been over two months since Villa had a multi-goal game – his last coming against the New York Red Bulls Aug. 6 – and the pair of tallies were just Villa’s third in his last nine appearances for NYCFC. Even with that in mind there wasn’t any doubt inside the club’s locker room that Villa would turn the corner.
“I don’t think he’s ever lost his confidence,” midfielder Alexander Ring said. “That’s why he’s the stature of player that he is. That’s why he’s been at the top. He missed the penalty because he’s holding it on for more important games.”
Villa has had an impressive season despite his scoring drought, which coincided with his return from an adductor injury he suffered with the Spanish national team. The Spanish international recorded 22 goals in 31 games played and had nine assists.
Some of his biggest goals of the season came on Sunday at Citi Field.
The captain’s first goal of the afternoon came off a header in the 17th minute. Maxi Moralez sent a corner kick into the box for Villa to knock in. Villa knocked scored his second goal of the afternoon in the 45th minute after working his way clear of a defender and firing the ball from 16 yards.
“I think he kind of sets the tone, sets the pace of the game,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said about Villa. “He’s a terrific player. He’s doing a great job this year and he’s had a great season. I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.”
Villa is a likely candidate for the league MVP and there wasn’t anyone in the New York locker room that wouldn’t vote for him this season.
“Yeah of course,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Viera responded when asked if he would vote for Villa. “When you decide who is going to be MVP of the year I think it’s important to look at the consistency of the players. The games that they played and how important they were for the teams. No doubt about it that I would vote for David for MVP this year.
“I think he’s been fantastic for the team, for the league and I think he fully deserves that award.”
Villa did not make himself available for comment as he left the locker room as the media descended on the team.