EDITORIAL – David Villa did something magical last night. And no, I am not speaking about scoring his 400th goal for club and country. Although that was magical and I’ll get to that in a moment. No, last night, New York City FC got airtime in the late night news sports update. David Villa forced the media to devote airtime to MLS. Something, for some reason, that they seem strangely opposed. It is probably a tougher achievement than his 400th career goal.
The Man In Seat 9: The Magic Of David Villa
Last night in the Bronx, the Man in Seat 9 stood with 22,114 other fans and watched as El Guaje struck the penalty kick that gave the Captain his 400th career goal. He is one of only five current players to mark that tally. Messi, Suarez, Ronaldo, and Ibrahimovic are the others. And unlike some others on that list, he has done it with a shocking sense of humility.
Full disclosure: The Man in Seat 9 hasn’t always given Villa the respect he deserved. I never went to a match just to watch him play as I have done with Messi. I knew of him, but never had an emotional connection to him. When he was signed to the club my feeling was neutral. I knew it was a solid choice, but it didn’t create the excitement in me that Frank Lampard, or say Robbie Keane did. In retrospect, that was wrong. And I blew the call on Lampard.
Because of my background, I have known some heroes. The thing I have always noticed is that heroes do the work. They don’t grandstand. They don’t seek glory. They just put their head down and do what others are either unwilling or incapable of doing. “The kid” meets that definition. Each week David Villa goes out, puts his head down, and gets to work.
Since day one, before being on the pitch for NYCFC, he was working. It is his ethos that is now part of the DNA of the club. It is his work ethic and leadership that has taken the club from where it was before a player was ever in touch, to today where the side is riding the top of the table and sportswriters are debating about how good this side really is. Patrick Vieira has sharpened this club into the team we see on the pitch today, but it was David Villa who tempered the steel.
One day, David Villa will retire. He will leave the pitch for the last time as a player. I strongly doubt that he will leave the club. He has become as much a part of New York and the local soccer system as he has become the heart and soul of the squad. Quietly, steadfastly, he is passing on the lessons taught to him by his father as he grew up in the north of Spain to a new generation in New York City. Never give up. Train hard. Fully commit. Enjoy what you do.
At the beginning of the season, it was clear that scoring 400 career goals was inevitable. Doing it at home, with the same joy, respect for the game, and love as you had on day one? Magic.
I remember the first home match against the New England Revolution. My wife and I were high in the stands of a sold-out stadium. This was New York City FC’s home debut. David Villa came down the line, received a pass, stopped, dropped his shoulder and left the defender behind trying to figure out what had just happened. My wife, who knows soccer through my passion for it, leaned over and asked, “Who’s that? He’s different than the other guys.”
“David Villa. And yes, yes he is.”
Not as commanding of a performance as against Real Salt Lake, it was another relaxing night in the Bronx and a great bounce back from whatever that was in Portland. The team was dangerous from the start and Jo Inge Berget had some beautiful combination plays with David Villa, almost scoring his second goal for the side. I still don’t “fear the beard” but I am starting to see a spark. It was a good warm-up match before next Saturday’s Hudson River Derby.
- David Villa back in top form
- Jesus Medina scoring his first MLS goal
- Drawing first blood instead of coming from behind
- Simultaneously beating FC Dallas for the first time and ending their unbeaten record.
- The breakdown in defense that allowed Dallas to respond almost immediately to our opening goal
- Nothing. Nada. Zip.
NYCFC find themselves again at the top of the table, one point ahead of Atlanta United, as we cross the river to see them play New York Red Bulls. They, too, have a good side this year — although not as consistent as Atlanta. It’s going to be another special match with high energy and a special atmosphere. It will also pit two very different playing styles against each other; the disciplined, high press, play out from the back, possession-based NYCFC system versus the amorphous, changing like mercury, Red Bull strategy. It’s going to be an interesting match.
Until next week in Harrison, New Jersey…
The Man in Seat 9
Photo: Apr 29, 2018; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward David Villa (7) reacts after scoring on a penalty kick against FC Dallas during the first half at Yankee Stadium. The goal was the 400th of his career. Credit: © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports