(David Villa scoring the opening goal for NYCFC on Sunday afternoon – USA Today Sports)
New York City Football Club got a solid 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium against Atlanta United FC, who are in their inaugural season in the MLS.
David Villa, fresh off signing a one-year contract extension, put NYCFC on the board in the 17th minute after a give-and-go from Rodney Wallace.
This was Villa’s 47th goal for NYCFC, over three seasons, and sixth of this season. He was the MLS Most Valuable Player in 2016.
Atlanta’s Carlos Carmona tied it in the 39th minute when he buried a strike from just outside the box inside the top left corner of the net. The play began with a sideline throw-in by Atlanta, and the NYCFC defense could not corral the ball, allowing it to get to Carmona.
In the opening minute of the second half, NYCFC pounded the Atlanta net, but a goalline stand by their goaltender and defenders, plus a couple off the post on shots by Villa and Wallace, kept the score tied.
Wallace got his chance in the 60th minute when he deflected a shot from Ethan White for his third goal of the season.
Wallace said of letting things go when you miss an opportunity as a forward, “Yeah, you have to let it go and use it as a fuel to move forward and try to get another one.”
On his goal, Wallace said, “I was in the box, my job was to get in the box and make something happen. David tried getting a touch on it, the ball got to me and it went into the back of the net.”
A minute later, Maxi Moralez scored his second goal of the season on a feed from Wallace to make it 3-1 NYCFC.
NYCFC improve to 5-1-3, 16 points, third in the Eastern Conference, while Atlanta dropped to 3-2-4, 11 points, in seventh place, just one point out of a playoff spot.
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira said of Villa and Wallace,
“I think David (Villa) is an important player for us, and when he plays the way he played today lifting the team, he is one of our leaders. When he plays like he did today, the confidence builds in the team and that’s why it’s important for him to be at this level every single game. It’s good for the team, and I think when you have a really good structure and you have people around working hard, that really expresses talent – and the same for Rodney (Wallace). There’s a reason why we brought him to our football club. His work ethic is fantastic. He’s putting the team before himself. He’s doing the dirty work for the team, and in the end he’s getting rewarded with the goal. He’s worked really hard and I think it’s not just about them two. If you want to win against a team like Atlanta, you need people to be at their best and today every player was at their best and we put out a really strong performance today.”
Vieira said of Wallace’s persistence after being denied three times within the first minute of the second half, “I think he showed how tough he is and how strong he is in his mind because he covered a lot of ground and he’s always at the right place to score goals or help the team. His work ethic is fantastic. When you look at his career, he won the title in this country. He went abroad. He had a tough time, and the majority of people might give up and do something else. He believed in himself and kept working hard in training, and there’s a reason why he’s in the starting eleven.”
Villa said of his opportunities in this one, “We did well today. I think that this may have been one of the best games in our season. We had more chances to score more goals. We played well. We don’t concede a lot. They scored a goal, but it was a crazy crazy amazing goal. We defended well. We pressed well. I think we did almost 100% today and congratulations to the team. The performance today was amazing. We respected the game plan and we worked hard in the facility all week and we played against a really good team. When we play like that, it’s difficult for any team to beat us.”
On the NYCFC mentality going into the second half, Villa said, “Of course we have technical players. But today we thought that we had to be physical players. People up front and in the back, we had to be in good physical condition and after after the draw in the first half, we came back out to the pitch more stronger and played well because with the chance of the three chances on the line. And I think we even did well in the first half too. It’s one of our most complete performances as a team.”