TORONTO—David Villa will be available for selection on Sunday and Toronto FC are not bothered by it one iota.
There was much speculation after Villa was seen kicking out at Armando Cooper in the 20th minute of Sunday's Eastern Conference Semifinal 2-0 Leg 1 victory for TFC over New York City FC at BMO Field, bringing into question his continued participation in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
It was announced on Tuesday that the MLS Disciplinary Committee had reviewed the incident from the 2-0 Toronto win, determining that the act should have been shown a red card at the time, but was not "egregious or reckless" – meaning Villa would not face subsequent sanction.
“I couldn't care less, whether he plays or doesn't,” said Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley after training on Wednesday. “It doesn't change one thing for us. It's all filed under the category of 'out of our control.'”
Nor were the club surprised by the decision.
“Everybody expected it; we move on,” said head coach Greg Vanney. “I said my piece after the game. Now we remain focused on ourselves.”
Even so, Bradley admitted liking the decision from a competitive standpoint, though he acknowledged some annoyance with perceived inconsistency, citing the case of a retroactive suspension handed to Cooper in late September for an incident with New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe.
“The league and the Disciplinary Committee went overboard this year, in terms of retroactive suspensions and punishment,” he said. “So if this is the first step in, what I would call, the right direction: Letting games play, understanding that referees make decisions on the field, and that you can't go back and re-ref every game on Monday morning … then I'm OK with that.”
So, given the bad blood and the fierce nature of the first leg, what sort of match can be expected Sunday (6:30pm ET, FS1, FOX Deportes | TSN in Canada)?
“We need to stay disciplined, focus on the task at hand: on getting the goal, or goals, and protecting our box like it's the end of the world,” Vanney said. “David Villa is going to be on the field – fantastic. They can put [their] best team on the field and we've got to do the business. There can't be any excuses for us not going there and getting the job done.”