Regular season MLS action begins with a full slate on March 6, and ESPN's indispensable Paul Carr has begun a countdown on his Twitter feed. He'll be providing one nugget of info per day, and I'm using each one as a jumping-off point to examine a specific issue.
With that in mind...
With no expansion happening until 2017, that's a record Villa will hold for at least one year. But there remain real questions about how he and the other Designated Players all fit together in the Bronx.
Villa's faked it on the wing from time to time, and has been a dogged and reliable presence as a false 9 for teams that were able to utterly dominate possession – I'm thinking mostly of his time with the Spanish national team from 2009 through 2012. But he is and always has been at his best when playing as a second forward in a 4-4-2.
And for NYCFC, it feels like that's a luxury position because there's simply no way they can play a two-man central midfield of Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. Those guys, at their age, need the protection provided by a box-to-box destroyer, which means the team has to play in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1.
That shoehorns Villa into the role of a lone forward, while probably pushing Mix Diskerud and/or Kwadwo Poku to the flanks. And suddenly you have a team with all three attackers playing out of position, causing NYCFC to become narrow and predictable. That in turn limits the passing range of Pirlo and the effectiveness of Villa, the club's two best players.
It is a tricky situation and I'm not sure how Patrick Vieira will solve it. As great as Villa, Pirlo and Lampard are, the pieces of this particular puzzle just don't seem to fit.