Exclusive: David Villa talks 2017 MLS season, La Liga title race and more
When David Villa arrived in New York City over two years ago the Spanish international was tasked with not only re-defining his playing career but also given the opportunity to help shape one of Major League Soccer’s newest franchises.
In just two full seasons in MLS, Villa has quickly established himself as one of the most successful additions to league in the Designated Player Era while also carrying NYCFC past several of its goals up until this point.
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The 35-year-old has racked up 41 goals in 62 league appearances for the Bronx side, tied with New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips for the most in MLS since 2015.
In addition to his many talents on the soccer field, Villa is also an ambassador for go90 Soccer — where fans can stream matches from the top leagues live, legally, and without hidden fees or traditional subscriptions.
Go90 has also released a new instant highlights feature which can be found at @go90Sports on Twitter.
As part of his work with go90, Villa recently selected his top seven moments from the La Liga season over the first half of the season (all can be found below).
Pro Soccer Talk recently caught up with the former Barcelona attacker for an exclusive interview where he discussed his thoughts on the La Liga title race, his hopes for NYCFC during the upcoming season and much more.
Having played for several of Spain’s top sides in the past, including the Blaugrana and Atletico Madrid, Villa is no stranger to the rigors of competition in one of Europe’s top divisions.
Real Madrid currently holds a slim gap at the summit of La Liga, and Villa expects the race to continue down a narrow path until the very end of the current campaign.
“Of course, Real Madrid is having a great season, but with many matches to play, I’m sure that Sevilla, Barcelona and even Atletico de Madrid are going to fight hard for make things difficult for them,” Villa told PST.
“All the teams [in La Liga] play good soccer and the competition is very demanding. If you lose a couple of games you may not win the title and you’re also in danger of relegation.”
While his past endeavors in Spain were what made Villa the superstar name that has become known in households around the globe, the recent storm the veteran has brought to MLS has immediately put NYCFC on the map.
After having fallen short of the postseason in 2015, the club turned things around in a major way during its second season in MLS by not only qualifying for the playoffs but also earning a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference.
In addition to his team’s achievements, Villa was named MLS MVP after netting 23 goals and adding four assists for Patrick Vieira’s side.
For Villa though, his personal accolades have always taken a back seat to the overall success of the team that he represents.
“Last year we improved a lot as a team and this season we need to continue growing. This is the third year of the team and we continue being a very young club, but NYCFC was born to win. We want to go one step further and try to compete for winning titles this season.
Villa also discussed his willingness to serve as the captain for NYCFC and his ability to set an example for the rest of the squad.
“During all my career I have enjoyed winning matches and titles. This is what I like much to do and is what I’m going to keep doing. I work every day to stay fit and try to help the team in the pitch and also outside the field.”
Much of NYCFC’s success of the club’s success in its brief existence can be traced to Villa’s contributions, however, in order for the team to take the next leap the Spaniard will need some assistance from the rest of the squad.
With second-leading goalscorer Frank Lampard no longer on the team, young players like Jack Harrison, Khiry Shelton and first-round draft pick Jonathan Lewis will be expected to carry a significant load in 2017.
Over the offseason, NYCFC has lost five regular starters from last year, including Lampard, Andoni Iraola and goalkeeper Josh Saunders, but Villa isn’t concerned about the squad’s current makeup and insists that he has confidence in the current crop of players.
“We trust our sporting director [Claudio Reyna] and all the technical staff and also feel confident as we are adding interesting new players to the roster,” Villa said. “The most important thing is to have a strong team, and we are going to be better with hard work in the preseason, and likely with other new players to come before March.
The mantra for the club over recent months has been that youth will be the key for Vieira’s team moving forward, and NYCFC’s latest roster proves that.
Vieira’s group features just three players over the age of 30, two of whom serve as Designated Players (Villa and Andrea Pirlo).
“Most importantly this year, we are going to add more young players in the roster,” Villa said. “They are hungry to succeed and I’m sure that we are going to watch some good performances for these young players.”