ATLANTA — If there’s been one offseason constant for New York City FC, it’s that there’s been significant overhaul of the roster.
But each postseason came with one assurance — David Villa was going to don his No. 7 jersey and be one of the most dangerous strikers in Major League Soccer.
However, following a third consecutive ouster in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, that is far from a certainty with the NYCFC captain out of contract. The biggest offseason question facing the Cityzens is clear: Has the club’s first signing played his final game for NYCFC?
Villa has been mum on the subject for most of the season, saying it wasn’t the right time to discuss that when asked by the media. Following a 3-1 loss to Atlanta United on Sunday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Villa was the first off the field and the first out of the locker room, again not speaking to reporters.
A report out of Spain on Monday suggests Villa would like to play for one more season.
“I don’t know. It’s not the right time, believe me, because we are disappointed,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said after the match. “Right now it’s not the best moment to speak about that, about David, about the contract because [NYCFC sporting director] Claudio [Reyna] is ready to talk about that with the players in the next two or three days.”
Villa’s impact, both on and off the field, is unparalleled. He’s scored a remarkable 80 goals in 124 career MLS matches, including MLS Cup Playoffs. Frank Lampard is second on that list with 15 goals.
The Spanish icon, who will turn 37 early next month, was limited to 23 regular season appearances this year after playing 30 or more games in each of his first three years. His 14 goals were also his lowest output since joining NYCFC ahead of the club’s inaugural season in 2015.
“He’s a legend. The club and the city can be thankful for a guy like him to have played in our team,” midfielder Alex Ring said. “I don’t know what he’s decided. He’ll probably tell that himself. I hope he continues because he’s a flagpole for the club, for the league. Let’s not forget what he’s done in this league. He’s had a couple of injuries this season. You shouldn’t forget or sleep on that, but we’ll see. These are things, I can’t make him continue. We hope for the best and we’ll see of course.”
“David is David. He’s been tremendous for this club. There’s no doubt about that,” added goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “You understand in this sport, especially when you don’t achieve what you set out to that change is inevitable. It’s just a part of the business. Obviously David has given us everything he has and it’s been tremendous for me to play with him over two seasons.”
Johnson and Ring, along with central defender Alex Callens, signed multi-year deals, the club announced last month. While they will certainly be back, it appears unlikely influential midfielder Yangel Herrera will return with the 20-year-old Venezuelan’s second one-year loan from sister club Manchester City up next month.
There have been 24 players over the course of the last two years to leave NYCFC, with Villa and Tommy McNamara the only holdovers from the club’s first season.
How many return for the start of preseason in January remains to be seen, but its clear tough questions will have to be asked after the team fell short of its massive expectations.
“We have to ask what happened because three years in a row we finish in the semifinals,” Torrent said. “OK, we have to think about that because it’s not the first one, the first year. It’s the third year we are able to arrive in the semifinals and after that we are not able to get the final.”