New York City FC midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (29) celebrates his goal against Orlando City SC during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — David Villa was primed to help New York City FC maintain its franchise-record home form against Orlando City on Saturday, while erasing the disappointment of a lack-luster road loss to the Houston Dynamo.
The City captain was in the midst of a favorable period. He scored seven of his eight goals in 2018 during the previous five matches, including an early strike in Houston to give his side a brief advantage. Furthermore, his six career goals against the Lions is the second all-time to Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco.
When Villa emerged from a pregame meeting in the bowels of Yankee Stadium, his countenance conveyed anger and disappointment – head coach Patrick Vieira had left the 36-year old striker out of the starting XI.
“Top players will never accept to be on the bench – this is why they have the career they have,” Vieira said after NYCFC defeated Orlando City 3-0. “I have a good relationship with David. We talk a lot. As a coach, I have to think about the team first before I think about the individual.”
Vieira had options to weigh during a stretch with three matches in eight days but the decision to drop the club’s all-time leading scorer from the lineup did not come without difficulty.
“I’m looking at how we want to play the game and the characteristics we need to give ourselves the best chance to win the game, and I have to make some decisions,” Vieira said. “I think that one was a tough one because it is not easy to leave David out. He had a tough game against Houston, like the rest of the team. And we’re going through a week where we have three games.”
The starting group of forwards versus Orlando City included Jo Inge Berget, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jesus Medina.
“What I wanted to see today is a different combination of players up front,” Vieira said. “I wanted to see the relationship between Jo, Ismael, Jesus. I know that David is a top player and I know what I can get from him. Just for that game I wanted to try different things – and there was some good and some bad.”
The good came from Shradi whose second career brace included a precise, bent ball around Orlando City keeper Joe Bendik for the game winner 35 minutes into the match. The Libyan national has seven finishes in his rookie season on 12 shots (eight on target) leaving him one shy of Villa for the team lead while helping NYCFC to their seventh consecutive triumph in the Bronx.
“Today was David on the bench, Wednesday will be somebody else,” Vieira said. “I would be upset if I found out that players on the bench were quite really happy. This is what I want from them. I want them to be frustrated when they don’t play. I want them to come the next day to show their frustration and work even harder – this is how the team will do well.”
NYCFC planned to train on Sunday ahead of their U.S. Open match against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena.