I’d like to step away from the sturm und drang of NYCFC’s loss to Orlando City SC and look at something a little bigger for a second. Something a little more remarkable and perhaps a little more important.
I’d like to look at David Villa’s last three goals.
Don’t Give Up: David Villa’s Last Three Goals
Now, you may say – and rightly so – “Really? City are sitting sixth place and heading to Mapfre to face the number two team in the conference and you want to talk about the captain’s last three goals? Two of which came in losses?“
But yes, I do. And if you’ll bear with me for a few paragraphs, you may see why I think David Villa’s last three goals are so important – to NYCFC, sure, but to North American soccer fans particularly.
Goal #1 – NYCFC v. D.C. United
At the time, I admit, I didn’t see how impressive this strike was. It took Blue City Radio’s Jon Sauerschell to point out that not only does David Villa one-time it (on a lovely cross from Tommy McNamara), but that he’s actually falling away from goal as he puts it toward goal. Add to that the fact that more than half of D.C. United’s side are between him and the net, and you have a goal that very few players are going to attempt with any legitimate expectation of success, let alone actually score on.
Goal #2 – NYCFC v. Philadelphia Union
This is the goal you’ve seen on television. The one that Alejandro Moreno thought should be the Goal of the Week, but that wasn’t. The one where Villa starts his run in the defending half, fights off two defenders, and then beats the goalie from midfield. A goalie who, when he’s not trying to shore up the Philadelphia Union’s defense, starts for the Jamaican National team.
Goal #3 – NYCFC v. Orlando City SC
In the locker room after the match, I heard Glenn Crooks say something to the effect that there were only a handful of players anywhere on the planet who could score the goal that David Villa had scored in the 74th minute. To take that pass, that’s essentially over his shoulder, in-stride and make the strike as he’s beating his defender and as Joe Bendik was closing on him. It’s amazing. And while the other Orlando players are right to chastise the guilty party for letting Villa beat him, who among us thought that shot was even possible, let alone going in?
But that’s not why David Villa’s last three goals are important
Because there’s more to what makes these goals terrific than just, you know, that they’re stunning feats of physical prowess.
For starters, they are all incredibly different from each other. The first goal is in traffic and with the run of play. It requires Villa being in the right place at the right time and placing the shot through a jungle of defenders. The second goal, however is completely against the flow of the match; when Maxi Moralez sends that pass, he’s standing fairly deep within NYCFC’s defending half. Thus it requires Villa’s speed and skill to bring the ball down while two defenders crawl all over him. All the while at the same time having a precise sense of where Blake is to shoot. And the third goal? It’s off of a set piece, in which Villa has to lose a defender and force the goalie to come out into in no-man’s land.
Three completely different kinds of goals, each one that would be emblematic of a certain kind of striker. That they all came from one striker is a little mind boggling.
But they’re also stunning because not one of David Villa’s last three goals comes before the 75th minute. Each one of them is scored when most of the high-priced “retirement-league” talent that fans have been enduring for years are either being subbed off or are coasting until the ref’s final whistle. And two of the goals come when NYCFC were down by two goals. In other words, right around the time when the high-priced and creaky talent have thrown up their hands in frustration at the ineptitude of their teammates.
And each one of David Villa’s last three goals have come against goalies who are not, as we mentioned above, punters. Bendik has given up only five goals all season. Hamid leads MLS with saves (30) and shots (43). And while it’s true that statistically this year is not proving to be among Andre Blake’s greatest, he’s still, by any measure, a quality keeper.
When you add these things to the skill of the shots themselves, you realize that what we’re seeing in David Villa is something truly special. We’re seeing a player of exceptional skill, of course. But we’re also seeing a player of exceptional dedication. Of exceptional perseverance. Of exceptional determination.
Anyone who follows MLS knows that’s a rare combination.
Which is why you should catch it while you can.