David Villa made a triumphant return for New York City FC on Sunday afternoon at Toronto FC.
In a typical Villa installment, the captain angled left on the dribble with a burst in the box and slotted a 15 yard shot past Alex Bono just 15 minutes into his reappearance as City recorded a 3-2 win at BMO Field.
Villa had missed seven consecutive matches with an injury to his right knee plus a one-game MLS All-Star suspension.
“It was a bad time for me because I can’t help the team,” an ebullient Villa said after notching his 9th finish of the season and 72nd regular season goal in 99 MLS starts. “I did everything to get healthy but the knee said no every time – I needed to wait for the knee to say yes. I’m happy to be back with the team.”
Villa indicated that he may require two or three matches to attain his full groove.
“I need time – I need time to get confidence in my knee first of all and my body is not in the same condition as the other players, right?” he said. “The first half I felt good not only for the goal but because my knee responded well.”
Villa managed a 70-minute performance that nearly included a second goal when he lofted a deft chip over Bono who parried the second half attempt for a New York City corner.
“You know it’s David Villa,” head coach Dome Torrent told Pro Soccer USA before the match. “We were able to win without David and that was important for us because we have more confidence now in each other. But you know how important he is for us – he’s normally the top scorer for every team.”
Although the scoring laurels at this juncture belong to first-year forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi whose brace included the game-winner off a spectacular volley with two minutes remaining in the match. Shradi has 10 goals on 25 total shots with a precise 15 attempts on target.
New York City has coped effectively without Villa this season. Spain’s all-time leading scorer has been absent for a total of 10 games and City is 7-2-1 in those contests.
Villa, who scored his 400th career goal earlier this season against FC Dallas, said he contributed in whatever manner he could as a leader of the team.
“When you are not playing the game you are not the same thinking player,” Villa said. “I am the captain and was here the first year. Dome and the staff are arriving new to the city and the club and I tried to do my best these weeks to help them, give my hand in everything they need. You know I am little bit more happy today because after I give my hand in the week and I can give my hand as well on the weekend.”
And in the process, Villa’s team has successfully recovered from their lone loss in the overall series to Toronto FC – a 4-0 drubbing at BMO Field last July.
“We are feeling that last year when losing here 4-nil it’s like we can’t beat this team,” Villa said. They are much better than us and this is bad in soccer to feel this. You always need to try to change the mentality. This year we are much better against them.”
With a 2-1 win at Yankee Stadium on June 24th, Torrent’s initial match in charge, City has swept the season series and Villa says the expectations are lofty.
NYCFC is tied on points with the Red Bulls for second place in the Eastern Conference and a single point behind MLS front-runners, Atlanta United.
“Now our position is comfortable,” Villa said with 10 matches to play. “We are probably in the playoffs for sure. Our mentality is to win the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup – why not?”