PURCHASE, N.Y. – Thanks to a virtuoso performance that saw him score his first career Major League Soccer hat trick in a 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, David Villa passed Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic to move atop the Golden Boot race with 17 goals in 22 matches this year.
New York City FC has 11 games to play and their captain is 10 goals away from tying the league record for goals in a season jointly held by Roy Lassiter of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips of the Red Bulls.
A year after capturing the Landon Donovan MVP Award – and being a strong contender to repeat – can the Spanish legend break the league’s scoring mark?
NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira doesn’t see any reason why not.
“I think the record is always there to get beat and it will get beat one day,” Vieira said. “I think the focus of David is of course to keep scoring goals because this is what he does best.”
Vieira said for Villa to achieve the feat, he’ll need a little help from his friends.
“If we keep playing well, he will have more chances of scoring goals,” Vieira said. “He will need the help of the team to keep scoring goals and we have a game that suits him really well. After when he’s in front of goals, the quality makes a difference.”
NYCFC winger Rodney Wallace isn’t about to bet against Villa from setting the record, in part, because of the captain’s unmatched work ethic.
“A player like David had won it all. Most players would fall back and rely on that. He’s one of those players who wants more and he doesn’t do it just for the show, but because it’s in his DNA,” Wallace said. “He’s a machine, he’s a goal scorer, he’s a beast. He’s always going to want more and he always wants to be the best. That translates on the field and it projects the message to the rest of the group.”
For fellow forward Sean Okoli, Villa’s willingness to put work in on the defensive side of the ball is something that separates him from other scorers and will give NYCFC, who are currently four points back of Toronto FC for the league lead, a shot at the Supporters’ Shield.
“A lot of times goal scorers just like to sit in front of goal, but David is the exact opposite,” Okoli said. “He’ll get you those goals, but he’ll also work defensively for you and that not only brings energy to the team, but it’s always something positive. If we keep that work rate together I think we’ll keep winning games.”