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