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Villa, NYCFC show courage with comeback win against Red Bulls

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Entering the 2017 MLS season, New York City FC had only defeated their cross-river rivals once.

[ MORE: Valeri’s scorcher helps Timbers run past Galaxy on Sunday ]

Now, in fairness to the team, it was a very small sample size of matches against the New York Red Bulls, but the results were certainly lopsided in the head-to-head series.

Fast forward to this season, and there have been changes within this NYCFC squad. Drastic chances. Noticeable changes that have pushed the team to another level.

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Patrick Vieira’s men traveled to Toronto last weekend to take on arguably the best side in the Eastern Conference and MLS, in Toronto FC, and NYCFC laid an egg with a brutal 4-0 defeat at the hands of Sebastian Giovinco and company.

The disappointment and anger that lingered from that match was not present on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, though, as NYCFC came back and knocked off the Red Bulls in front of a packed 33,679-supporter crowd in the Bronx.

Perhaps the fight in the squad and ensuing result came because of the fact that club was facing its undoubted greatest rival. Or it was a result of NYCFC’s growing confidence and ability to exhibit short-term memory loss, even after a devastating defeat like they suffered north of the border last Sunday.

A club always expects its top players to be on their game at the biggest moments, and captain David Villa displayed that grit and tenacity in his play against the Red Bulls, which was something that the former Spanish international had had a difficult time doing in the past against Jesse Marsch’s group.

I try to do my best always, in the training facility or in games,” Villa said. “I try to show the young players I arrived to where I arrive because I always give 100 percent on the pitch.

“Sometimes you can play well like today and score three goals and sometimes you can play bad like in Toronto the other day, like I did, but it is mandatory to give 100% and I try to do that. If they show me like a leader, it is a pleasure to me.”

Not only did Villa score his first-ever MLS hat-trick, but the 35-year-old goalscorer helped his side come back from a 2-1 deficit with less than 20 minutes remaining in the rivalry match.

“I don’t like to come back every time, I hope we’re not always in the same situation, but it’s great,” Villa said following his three-goal performance. “If you look at the team it is great, the whole feeling. Today the team went down then back up so it was great.”

On top of that, NYCFC can boast the fact that they have captured the season series against their Harrison-based foe, which was something that they couldn’t say during the first two years of this growing rivalry.

To Vieira, though, the result doesn’t matter if NYCFC doesn’t build off of the result and establish consistency in its future endeavors.

“We are not a big team yet because a big team plays like this every week,” Vieira said.

He continued: “We are getting close to the Red Bulls (in terms of stature) and games like tonight show we are close.”

“I told them I want them to enjoy the win but keep their feet on the ground and focus on the details game by game.”

NYCFC will hit the road next weekend when Vieira and his side head west to take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday night.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET