Not only was NYCFC’s second hard-fought victory of the season over TFC, a team that's caused them much pain in the past, but it was back in that first meeting on July 24 that David Villa picked up a knee injury that forced him off after 28 minutes and sidelined him for seven matches.
“I'm happy to be back with the team,” said Villa post-match. “I was very worried, this was a bad time for me because I can't help the team. That is always my focus, to help, to be with the team, and I can't.
“I did everything to be healthy ASAP, but the knee said not every time,” he continued. “With more work, the knee said not and I needed to wait for the knee to say yes. It's not easy after a long time [out], played 70 minutes in a difficult scenario. I'm happy for the victory, that is the most important.”
NYCFC won four of those matches Villa missed, and drew another, to stay in touch with Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls in the race for the top of the Eastern Conference. But his return comes at the perfect time, with the summer coming to a close and the season entering its final stretch.
“We were able to win without David. We have a strong team, strong players; I'm very happy for this reason,” said head coach Dome Torrent. “But everybody knows that David is special for us. You [saw] today, the first action, he's able to score a goal.”
Added Alexander Callens: “He's our captain, it's always important to have our captain back. Let alone his skill, his experience is very important to us. It's a huge plus having him back on the road to the playoffs.”
Villa played 71 minutes in Sunday's win, scoring the opening goal in the 15th minute – his ninth of the season. Across this year’s two appearances against TFC, he put in nearly a full 90, finishing what he started.
“I was feeling good in the first half,” explained the Spaniard. “In the second half I was a little bit tired. We had a plan with the physios to play about 60 minutes; I could play 70. I'm happy.
“[It was] a lot of time away, I need to get confidence in my knee first of all, but obviously my body is not in the same condition as the other players,” added Villa. “I tried to do my best and in the first half, I was feeling very good, not only for the goal, not only for the plays, because my knee [held up] well.”
While sidelined, Villa tried his best to contribute.
“When you are not playing, [it's] not the same,” he admitted. “It's important in my case. I am the captain, I was here the first year, [while] Dome and the staff [were] new in the city and the club. I tried to help them, give my hand in everything. But I am more happy today: After giving my hand during the week, I can do my hand as well in the weekend.”
As his side battles the rest of the way, Villa’s return brings a proven winner back into their midst.
“Our mentality is why not?” he continued. “Fight to take the Shield and after the MLS Cup. We can do that.”