“One more year,” was the chant that loudly echoed throughout SubCulture in Greenwich Village for the NYCFC captain, who is out of contract at year’s end and has been mum about his playing future.
“That is not important right now,” Villa said after helping lead NYCFC to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Decision Day presented by AT&T. “The most important is the team and for this I didn’t talk a lot these last few months.”
There was a belief in the preseason and through the early portion of the regular season that this NYCFC team was the best constructed to date and ready to make a run at MLS Cup.
Villa, of course, is at the heart of that. The 36-year-old Spanish legend was the club’s first-ever signing on June 2, 2014 and has been an ambassador both on and off the field for NYCFC, arguably one of the best Designated Players in league history. He’s scored 77 regular season goals over the course of his four seasons, including 14 in 23 appearances this year.
While NYCFC have already locked up a few of their core players for next year and beyond, announcing earlier this month the re-signing of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, central defender Alex Callens and midfielder Alex Ring to multi-year contracts, it’s uncertain if Villa will be back. The same is true of influential midfielder Yangel Herrera, whose second one-year loan from Manchester City will be up in December.
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There has been significant roster turnover in each of the club’s first three years and with that in mind, there is a win-now mentality heading into the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, beginning with Wednesday's Knockout Round game against Philadelphia (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás; TSN1/4, TVAS).
“For us, the time is now,” Johnson said. “You can’t really look forward to the future. Obviously I’m happy to be here long-term, but you want results now. We’re a good enough team to make that happen. Our expectation is high for ourselves. I know the organization and the fans all have high expectations and that’s the way it should be. It’s New York City Football Club, it’s not like a lot of other places I would say in the world, even MLS.
“This postseason is extremely important for us to really achieve something. I say that lifting a Cup is the only thing that’s going to be satisfying for us.”
With or without Villa, Ring expects to compete for an MLS Cup every year. He said the memories of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals ouster still haunt him and the midfielder wants to make things right this postseason.
“I want to win it every year. I don’t care this year, last year, next year, in five years, I want to win it every year,” Ring said. “If I don’t have that hunger, then I’ll quit soccer because it doesn’t make sense for me otherwise.”