As a goal-scorer, David Villa is in a class by himself. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — Patrick Vieira has played with and against and watched some of the greatest goal-scorers in the world this century, so he knows what makes a striker special.
And he certainly knows what a special talent and person David Villa has been for club and country. Villa’s most recent club is New York City FC, for whom he has tallied 69 goals in the past three-plus MLS seasons, after cracking the 400-goal barrier for his career Sunday night.
“I think it’s a fantastic achievement,” the NYCFC head coach said after the 3-1 win over FC Dallas at Yankee Stadium. “On the personal side, I think that he’s just a fantastic player. You guys are just seeing what he’s doing on the field here, but I have a chance to work with him every day and I’m always amazed by his attitude and his desire to compete every single day and train.
“His goals reflect who he is as a person and he’s like that every day in training. When you see him work every day, you’re not surprised that he’s scored over 400 goals. I think we’re lucky to have a player like that in our football club, not just for what he’s done on the field but to use as an example. I think it would be really difficult to find someone better who can show to the young players how to conduct yourself to play more than 15 years at the higher level and to compete at his age, so he’s a really good tool for me to use regarding how to conduct yourself as a professional.”
After a slow start to the season due to a calf injury, the 36-year-old Villa got into stride Sunday night, connecting on both sides of halftime. That doubled his production to four goals. His milestone goal was not a beautiful one, a penalty kick after an FC Dallas handball in the penalty area, but it counted just the same.
The second one was vintage Villa as he snagged a pass from and outbattled and outpaced FC Dallas defenders Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler for No. 401 in the 69th minute.
“Perfect moment,” Villa said of his milestone. “First of all it was great for the team to comeback after a big mistake we made in Portland.”
That was a 3-0 loss at the Portland Timbers last Sunday.
“It’s important for the mentality of the team to comeback as quickly as possible,” he added. “We felt that on Thursday, when we came back to the training facility, we made a big mistake that we need to forget quickly. I think it was the first time we beat Dallas, tough game against a great team. First of all, I’m happy to get the three points, then to arrive at 400 and 401 it is a great day for me. Now for me, it is time to rest and think of how I can score number 402 for the team.”
Asked if he thought Villa could contribute to the Spain national side in June’s World Cup, Vieira replied, “That is not my decision. That is the manager, but my first concern is to keep him fit and healthy, like all the players of course, to compete every weekend. Then after, if he goes to the World Cup, I will be very happy for him and the football club will be really proud.”
While all goals count the same, they are not necessarily all alike. Some are scored under pressure. Others are beautiful creations. Villa admitted that any goal scored with his head was special, because he hasn’t converted that many.
“The big one has to be in the Champions League against Manchester United with Barcelona in the final. This was the best, but I hope the best is coming. Why not give the silverware to NYCFC this year?”