The game in 100 words (or less): At the risk of making the same mistake two seasons in a row (writing the Seattle Sounders off in early August), it’s time to forget about the LA Galaxy making the playoffs in 2017. Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of New York City FC was their seventh in eight games. Sigi Schmid inherited an absolute mess of a squad, which currently sits nine points out of the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference. Rookie Jonathan Lewis scored the game’s opening goal, his first in MLS, and David Villa added the insurance 15 minutes before full-time, his league-leading 18th of the season. NYCFC leapfrogged the Chicago Fire, who lost on Saturday, for second place in the Eastern Conference and remain four points back of Toronto FC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield (and home-field advantage in the playoffs).
54′ — Lewis curls a beauty past Rowe for 1-0 — It’s a wonderful strike by Lewis, but one must acknowledge Jermaine Jones’ flailing challenge which comes up painfully empty as the rookie skates past him and goes for goal.
73′ — Villa curls one past Rowe for 2-0 — We are truly fortunate to follow this league while this player continues to do his thing at this level. He’ll almost certainly become the first back-to-back MVP in MLS history.
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.
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.
2017 has had the first @MLS hat tricks by players born in:
“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.
The game in 100 words (or less): If goals are your thing, Sunday’s New York Derby was a must-watch. Two of the league’s most dynamic goalscorers put on a show at Yankee Stadium, but it was David Villa that had the last say as he recorded his first MLS hat-trick and helped NYCFC capture its first season-series against their bitter rival. Meanwhile, Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his scoring tear against NYCFC in the defeat with his ninth and 10th goals against the Red Bulls’ cross-river rivals. The loss for Jesse Marsch’s side snaps the team’s four-match win streak, while NYCFC creates separation in third place in the Eastern Conference with the win.
Three four moments that mattered
28′ — Villa pounces, puts NYCFC in front — Red Bulls fans will be shouting for handball on Alex Ring, but the flag stayed down and David Villa does what he does best. That’s 15 goals on the season!
I’ll just say it: I’d rather watch Real Madrid play almost any singular MLS playoff team in a friendly than spy Wednesday night’s MLS All Star Game in Chicago.
Realizing that it’s a terrific event for Chicago and not a bad thing for some younger All Stars hoping to catch the eye of new fans or suitors — cough, Miguel Almiron and Kellyn Acosta — I have a hard time thinking casual sports fans are aiming to lock themselves in for two hours or even 45 minutes of TV time.
It’s not even particularly special for the All Stars themselves. Nemanja Nikolic played against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season. David Villa has lined up across from Real on numerous occasions, and the same can be said for Giovani dos Santos, Kaka, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Heck, ol’ Basti knocked Real out of the UCL, period:
So forgive me if my excitement level for watching the match on television is linked directly to my pleasure at having a live match to monitor during my PST shift (and for that early August opportunity, MLS, I applaud you). Now in person? Heck yes, live soccer!
I’m neither the fun police nor a hater of All Star Games in general, but honestly I think we’re past this.
Consider this same premise, but now conducted intra-league. Sure it’s going to be harder to fill up a giant venue, but you’re still talking about Kaka, Villa, Schweinsteiger, and Giovinco in the same building, a clarion call for MLS, soccer, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, and American fans.
Now would I prefer Real vs. the MLS All Stars in a Best of Three super series with the All Stars given more than five minutes to train together? Sure.
Would I sign up for an in-game gimmick that leads to must-see TV? Yeah, sure (How about: if the All Stars win, they get to actually participate as Real in the club’s first group stage game against a European minnow. Almiron, get ready to meet FC Astana of the Kazakhstan Premier League!).
I don’t blame MLS for having the event, but I’m far past the point of “This’ll be great.” And I think 99 percent of American soccer fans and a strong number of sports fans are past the point of needing primers on who Real Madrid is, or will be sold on this game “mattering” as some sort of MLS litmus test.
Major League Soccer is so, so much better than when Michael Parkhurst, a 2017 All Star, trotted out for the All Stars’ 2-0 win over Celtic in 2007. Much better. It’s even much improved from the highly-publicized waxings doled out by Manchester United in the 2010 and 2011 editions.
I get why Real Madrid wants to play the game and boost their global brand. I get why the host cities want in, and why MLS feels like “It ain’t broke so we won’t fix it.”
Yet as those of us who watch MLS regularly can often wonder how Toronto FC or New York City FC might fare in meaningful matches against low-tier teams from the Bundesliga, La Liga, or the Premier League, or as part of a ‘our best 20 versus your best 20’ showcase against the Football League Championship or 2.Bundesliga, I can guarantee you even the biggest MLS honk doesn’t think anything about this game merits projecting the result in a single meaningful way.
Pardon me for not shining my shoes.
Now I suppose this year is as good as any to project MLS All Stars rebounding from a loss to Arsenal to claim a fourth win in six years. The men are in better shape and form thanks to the unorthodox MLS season, Cristiano Ronaldo is not available, and Real didn’t exactly shrink from the weekend’s Stateside Clasico versus Barca.
Being one week from Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup Final against Manchester United in Macedonia, Zinedine Zidane will have his eye on putting his squad in well-oiled order, so perhaps that will provide more fire in Real’s belly.
Call it 3-2 to the All Stars, and we’ll see you in Astana.
The game in 100 words (or less): New York City FC spent 78 minutes at a man disadvantage, fewer than 72 hours after drawing MLS-leading Toronto FC midweek, against the second-place Chicago Fire on Saturday. It the end, this week shall go down as the back-to-back which put to bed any lingering questions regarding NYCFC’s MLS Cup-contending credentials. Four points from two games against the league’s top-two teams — Patrick Vieira’s side (37 points) now sits a single point back of Chicago, two back of Toronto. As is typically the case, David Villa’s fingerprints were all over Saturday’s win at Yankee Stadium, as the reigning MVP scored the opening goal (in typically stunning fashion) before so nearly setting up one or two more as the back-and-forth, frantic second half wore on. Frederic Brilliant scored what turned out to be the winner just three minutes later, as David Accam canceled out Villa’s opener to make it three goals scored in seven minutes.