New York City FC captain David Villa makes late push for MLS MVP

FLUSHING – After scoring just once in his last six games, David Villa exploded for a brace in a 2-2 draw with Columbus Crew SC at Citi Field, on Decision Day presented by AT&T.

The Spanish legend may be finding his form again at the perfect time, as New York City FC embark on their second consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs.

Somewhat pedestrian the last few games, Villa was a threat throughout Sunday. He latched onto a Maxi Moralez corner kick and powerfully headed past Zack Steffen before putting the ball in off the Crew SC goalkeeper after running at Harrison Afful for his 22nd goal of the season.

No stranger to late-game dramatics, Villa stepped to the penalty spot for the potential winner in second-half stoppage time, but Steffen dived to push aside the attempt.

Villa’s performance made sure NYCFC achieved the goal set weeks ago – to finish second in the Eastern Conference – and he might have put himself just ahead of Portland’s Diego Valeri, with MLS MVP voting ending Monday.

Admittedly biased, NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira believes Villa has the necessary resume to capture the award for a second straight year.

“When you decide who is going to the MVP of the year, I think its important to look at the consistency of the players, the games they’ve played and how important they were for the teams,” Vieira said. “Of course, no doubt about it I would vote for David for the MVP this year. I think he’s been fantastic for the team, for the league. I think he would fully deserve that award.”

Vieira also lauded his team’s effort in a dramatic and scintillating draw with Crew SC. Yes, cynics will point to just one win in NYCFC’s last seven matches, but Vieira instead prefers to look at the overall picture when he sees where his team finished.

“We are really satisfied; we are really pleased because I think finishing second in the regular season is a really good achievement,” Vieira said. “When you look at the Shield and you look at the top 6-7 and there’s five East teams, it just shows how strong the Eastern Conference was.”

And, as they did last year, NYCFC will avoid the Knockout Round game and await their opponent in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There’s a lot of unknown in the days ahead, but that’s not the case for Alex Ring when he talks about the MVP race.

“He can create anything out of nothing,” Ring said of Villa. “That’s a trait that not many players have in this league or in the world. I think we know how valuable he is for us as our captain, as our leader. For me he’s the obvious MVP choice. You go two seasons with 20-plus goals, I don’t think I have to advertise how good he is. Everyone know it and for me it would be a big surprise if he doesn’t win the MVP.” 

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