In only the club’s second season in Major League Soccer, New York City FC is on the verge of making its first playoff appearance in club history.
Pro Soccer Talk recently had the opportunity to catch up with the club’s captain, David Villa, as he and his team prepare for the remainder of the 2016 regular season and gear up for the postseason.
On Wednesday, Villa sat down with PST at Tavern on Third in New York City as the former Spanish national team star helps promote Go90 — a mobile application that allows fans to live-stream some of the world’s biggest soccer leagues and matches, including La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.
While Villa was focused on the various television screens in the restaurant —all of which were playing Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid — the 34-year-old discussed his team’s aspirations with the MLS season winding down.
“It’s our moment now,” Villa told PST. “We need three points to go through to the playoffs. The playoffs is different because it’s a fight for one day or two days. Our goal is make the postseason and then to be better every series we play in.
“We don’t have a spot yet in the playoffs,” Villa said. “If we win on Friday then we’re in but it’s the first goal for us. We need to fight in the rest of the games because it’s not the same to be the sixth spot versus the second or first spot. We need to fight for the last few games before the playoffs so we get a good position.
“It’s only our second season so I think the fans see the team and don’t think they always see it’s our second year. Some teams have been working for over 20 years and it’s different for them. NYCFC is still growing and we’re very proud of that. Of course the objective for our club is to win the trophy at the end. We’re close to reaching the playoffs but we’re still fighting with every other team to get wins and keep up our form.”
With NYCFC holding its playoff fate in its own hands, Patrick Vieira’s group has the opportunity to qualify for the postseason on Friday night against the Chicago Fire, who currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Villa was quick to give his head coach a lot of the credit for New York City’s success this season, citing his demanding training regiment and tactics as some of the critical reasons why the team is in prime position to not only make the playoffs but make a deep run when the side reaches that stage.
“Patrick is a very good coach,” Villa said. “The most important thing is that he’s come in and had a very clear plan from the first day. Day by day we work in training to accomplish our goals and it’s good for us. For me, I like the style Patrick wants us to play and of course you always need to get the results. So far this year we are doing good because we’re in a good position. We need to finish out strong though going into the playoffs.
While the club’s defensive struggles have at times overshadowed the team’s success in 2016, one of the biggest differences from NYCFC’s inaugural season is the support that Villa has received up front in helping the Spaniard contribute finishing.
The former La Liga star leads the squad for the second consecutive season, with 17 goals in 29 appearances, but the emergence of players like rookie Jack Harrison and ex-Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard have taken the burden off of Villa.
“Of course we are happy to have players playing close to me like Jack [Harrison], like Khiry [Shelton], like Tommy [McNamara] and Tony Taylor sometimes,” Villa explained. “Steven Mendoza is another player as well. Every player that plays up front with me wants to help the team and of course for the attacking players we’re all trying to make good contributions on the pitch.”
While Villa’s focus on his new club is evident, the former Barcelona man took the time to discuss several other topics, including how Pep Guardiola‘s influence has brought Manchester City (NYCFC’s parent club) immediate success.
“It’s good,” Villa said with a smile on his face. “Guardiola has done this at different clubs which is amazing. When I was at Barcelona he was tremendous, going to Bayern he was excellent and now at Manchester City he’s gotten off to a great start as well. He’s good. He’s very good and I’m very proud to have worked with one of the best coaches in the history of soccer and to see him putting up some great results.
“He’s brought great tactics to all the clubs he’s been at and the players really like playing for him. I think City’s start has shown how good of a manager he is. I think they’ll be one of the best clubs for as long as he’s there because he’s very smart and always looking to get better.”Follow @MattReedFutbol