Saludos, Guaje: David Villa's Top 5 moments in MLS with New York City FC
With the news that David Villa is set to depart New York City FC after four sterling seasons, we looked back at the Spaniard’s prolific MLS career in search of its top five moments.
No. 5: The Road Thief (Sep. 30, 2016)
In a league where home teams tend to rule, there are many great types of away victories. Among the best is when your star decides a scoreless jab-fest through classy individual skill while you're in the thick of a conference title race with your archrivals.
Villa did just that to steal three points out of Houston during the club's first thrilling stretch drive as a real contender. Seven minutes after halftime, he bagged an MLS Goal of the Week winner. On a set corner-kick play, the No. 7 shirt curled around the crowd in perfect time, took a hard touch toward the end line and raced it down to somehow fire through Joe Willis from the sharpest of angles as if that was something a person should be able to do.
He wasn't done. Just to make sure the "W" was safe, he corralled a Tony Taylor cross to blast home from the edge of the penalty box in stoppage time. Bang, boom, see ya.
No. 4: The Bank Shot (May 7, 2017)
NYCFC were first introduced to Atlanta United when the then-expansion side rolled into the Bronx for a spring tussle at Yankee Stadium. It certainly didn't take long for Villa to make his acquaintance.
The longtime Spain star started the 17th-minute move with a nifty flick out to Ben Sweat on the sideline. The defender chested it forward to Jonathan Lewis, who then laid it off for Villa, who of course had darted to a seam after his initial pass.
With four Atlanta defenders in hot pursuit as he invaded their area down the left channel, Villa called his shot. It curled onto the far post well out of the reach of Alec Kann, bouncing across to gently kiss the other post before tucking into the side netting. It also sent NYCFC on to a 3-1 win.
No. 3: The Waterpark Winner (Jun. 17, 2017)
It was not a lucky day for Seattle, who were finally gaining traction after their usual slow start. They escaped the notoriously damp Pacific Northwest, only to have to play a wet and wild onein rainy NYC.
Cristian Roldan initiated a Yankee Stadium groan by putting the Sounders up shortly before intermission, but Villa had the second-half answers. On 52 minutes, he earned and converted a penalty kick after sprinting through an area crowd of defenders from neat combo play with Rodney Wallace.
That was nothing compared to the decider, though. With 13 minutes to play (and the rain finally stopped), Villa sneaked onto a back-post Jack Harrison cross like a bandit before coolly volleying into the far side like it was easy. It would be Seattle's last defeat before embarking on their second-half rally to MLS Cup.
No. 2: The Mega-Golazo (Apr. 15, 2017)
I was watching this game live, and my first thought when this silly, silly goal happened was something along the lines of "Wow, that's wildly unbelievable while at the same time also being, ho-hum, just what you'd expect from Villa."
On the scoresheet, it was a last-minute insurance strike in an important early-season road winover a nearby Eastern Conference rival, the Philadelphia Union. But that's not what we all saw. We all saw Villa race from his own end to catch up to Jack Elliott at the midfield stripe and throw the young defender off just enough that he couldn't make a play on a looping corner-kick clearance.
We then saw Villa turn toward the resulting loose ball without any hint of hesitation so he could lash an arcing shot toward goal from 50-something yards. Honestly, Andre Blake wasn't even that far off his line, but sure enough we also saw the Philly goalkeeper unable to reach the audacious lob before it dropped just under the bar.
No. 1: The Derby Trick (Aug. 6, 2017)
You're probably wondering how anything could top that spectacle, but I have a proposal. How does a Villa 3, New York Red Bulls 2 scoreline work for ya?
In the August heat of the playoff race, the Red Bulls came into Yankee Stadium on a four-game winning streak and having won two of three away derby clashes. The first clue that this would not be their day came when Villa crept in alone by reacting first and best to the hard carom of a blocked midfield pass before rounding Luis Robles with veteran ease.
Bradley Wright-Phillips attempted to play the rude guest by sandwiching his brace around the break, but Villa and NYCFC would enjoy the last laugh. In the 72nd minute, he started his dribble from midfield out on the right flank, slalomed through the entry corner of the area and unleashed a short-side laser that was too hot for Robles to handle.
Just a moment later, Villa ran into the box from a Sean Okoli flick and then into a Sal Zizzo high boot. The whistle blew, and the NYCFC hero was able to complete his first, last and only MLS hat trick by sending Robles the wrong way.