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David Villa shines as he helps NYCFC deliver win in Yankee Stadium debut

David Villa shines as he helps NYCFC deliver win in Yankee Stadium debut David Villa shines as he helps NYCFC deliver win in Yankee Stadium debut

The Spanish World Cup winner notched a goal and an assist as he helped NYCFC beat New England and impress more than 43,000 fans at the home opener.

NEW YORK — David Villa has played in the world’s biggest competitions and scored goals on the biggest stage. But when he delivered his first goal in a New York City FC uniform on Sunday, you would have thought he was celebrating the first goal of his career.

Villa’s face beamed with pride as he pointed at the crowd of more than 43,000 that turned out on a cold day in the Bronx to witness a bit of history.

Much like Kaka ushered in a new era with expansion side Orlando City last week with his memorable equalizer, Villa provided the first goal at Yankee Stadium for NYCFC, thrilling the crowd and setting the tone for an unforgettable day for the expansion club.

"Yes, I’m very happy. A dream debut obviously,” Villa said after NYCFC’s 2-0 victory Sunday in his team’s first match at Yankee Stadium. “It was what we all wished for a match like this. It came out well. I think we are in a moment of growth because we are a new team, but we’ve made a great game. We scored two goals, and played a second half to score many more."

As impressive as his opening goal was, it was the performance of Villa and NYCFC in the second half that really dazzled. If not for some heroic goalkeeping from Revs net-minder Bobby Shuttleworth, Villa could have finished with a hat trick. The Spanish striker was unable to add a second tally, but he set up Patrick Mullins’ insurance goal with a perfect pass to the back post that helped seal the victory.

“I’m glad that we could find him in some better spots,” said NYCFC midfielder Ned Grabavoy, who combined with Villa on his goal. “Sometimes it’s difficult for a player that’s that special in the final third to go long stretches of not seeing the ball. So I told him at halftime, ‘We’ll just try to get you in better spots, and around the goal.’ That’s where he needs to be. Certainly in the second half he was all over the place and causing some major problems for them.”

Villa’s impact was a far cry from what he was able to deliver a week earlier in Orlando. The team’s season opener wasn’t quite the debut Villa would have hoped for. Even though he made an impact, helping set up Mix Diskerud’s goal and drawing a red card on Aurelien Collin, Villa saw little of the ball and finished the match without a shot on goal.

“I thought that last week it was very, very difficult for him, as I knew it would be,” NYCFC coach Jason Kreis said of Villa. “This is an extremely physical league in which the defenders don't give you any time or space on the ball and there's a lot of physical confrontations because of that.

“But I know that he's an incredibly talented player and an incredibly smart player, and he's not shy of working hard,” Kreis added. “For me, he's the exact type of player that will be successful in this league, but it will take some time.”

With just two matches under Villa's belt in MLS, it might be premature to suggest he is learning the league over the course of a few weeks. He was quick to point out after Sunday’s match that he has lived in New York since September and watched the league’s matches in the final months of the season. He has fully embraced his move to MLS and believes he has everything he needs to succeed with NYCFC as he succeeded in Spain.

“I have a great coach, a great coaching staff, some great teammates who have given their all,” Villa said. “Soccer is soccer wherever you go. The most important thing is to give your all, to work every day, every weekend.

“In the end, I have the qualities instilled in me by my mother and father,” Villa added. “Everybody knows when you have hard, have humility, and desire to improve, and like I said, I have the qualities instilled by my parents, everything comes.”

Villa’s hard work was on full display Sunday. Not only with the way he stepped up his game in the second half and increased his production, but also in the way he fought every minute, even pressing New England players in the 90th minute when the match looked out of reach.

When the final whistle blew, Villa’s smile said plenty. It wasn’t just the win, or the goal, that filled him with joy.

“I’m happy, above all, because the people came to the stadium on a day that was very cold for everybody,” Villa said. “I want to thank them publicly, and I’m very happy to see them support us and fill the stadium despite this cold, and go home happy because their team played a good game.”


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