Talk about living up to the occasion.
In the first ever home game for the MLS expansion club New York City FC, superstar David Villa tormented the New England Revolution, the defending Eastern Conference Champions. The World Cup winner scored the club’s first ever home goal off a brilliant 1-2 with midfielder Ned Grabavoy, and assisted Patrick Mullins’ goal to seal the deal. NYCFC won the game 2-0.
Villa’s performance — one goal, one assist, and lots of created chances — was surely impressive, but it’s the stage in which he performed that makes his week so memorable. The club kicked it all off at their new home, Yankee Stadium, in front of 43,507 beaming fans who ushered their new club in with open arms.
NYCFC has high expectations this season. This expansion team has the talent (Villa, USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud, and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, who is expected to arrive in July), pedigree (Jason Kreis has won the MLS cup with Real Salt Lake), and a solid supporting cast. They are expected to qualify for the playoffs. So far, so good; they’ve taken 4 points out of a possible 6.
At the helm of their early success? Villa, the brilliant Spanish forward, has been dubbed “El Guaje,” or “the kid.” Not many international soccer players’ resumes can measure up to that of Villa, who has won almost every domestic trophy possible during his time with Barcelona, and was part of Spain’s domineering run from 2008-2012 when they won the World Cup and two European championships.
Villa was NYCFC’s first player ever. He’s also their captain, their leader, and their on-field inspiration. In the team’s first game — a 1-1 draw against fellow expansion club Orlando City FC — the team lagged through the first 70 minutes, similar to Villa, who struggled to find space to operate. But when the crafty forward began to come to life, so to did the rest of his team, and they ended up taking a 1-0 lead in the 76th minute.
Villa’s performance against the Revolution was even better, and he has certainly adjusted well to life in the MLS. But what’s been more impressive is his ability to carry the weight of a new franchise that represents the most populated city in the United States, especially with that traditional Spanish flare that brings him back to his roots.
An unorthodox selection? Yes. But David Villa is our Athlete of the Week.