(NYCFC’s David Villa (center) collides with Atlamta’s Ezequiel Barco (8) late in the game Sunday night – USA Today Sports)
David Villa got a goal and an assist to get New York City Football Club a point on the road against Atlanta United FC in a 2-2 draw on Sunday night.
NYCFC remains unbeaten on the season at 5-2-0, in first place in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of Atlanta, who is 4-1-1-, 13 points.
Villa came off the bench for the second straight game, entering in the 35th minute when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi had to leave the game with a hamstring injury.
NYCFC was trailing 1-0 at the time, as Greg Garza got Atlanta on the board in the 29th minute.
It took him just three minutes to make an impact as he scored the 399th of his storied career on a penalty kick after Jo Inge Berget was brought down in the box in the 38th minute to tie it up at 1.
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira said of Villa, “David, when he came on he looked good. I think he showed how he has been working the last couple of weeks and he came on with no problem. He finished the game with no issues, so that is good for us for next game.”
It appeared that Atlanta had re-taken the lead, but it was reversed on a VAR review. Darlington Nagbe’s shot from range was called off due to a (correct) offside call after it emerged that Josef Martinez had impeded NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Atlanta Head Coach Gerardo Martino said of Nagbe’s goal being called off, “He could have been offsides, but I don’t think that if there were three or four goalies in the net that they would have stopped it.”
Vieira said of it, “I was asking the fourth referee about what was going on. I’m glad because I think this is what the VAR is. It is trying to help the referees make the right decision. That was an important goal, and I am glad that it went in our favor.”
Johnson said, “I think VAR in that situation really helped our team out and I think in the moment it was a big turning point in the game. It’s an important moment to get right, but that’s what VAR is for.”
In the second half, Atlanta did get the lead back, as Chris McCann headed one in after a feed from Miguel Almiron in the 56th minute to make it 2-1.
In the 73rd minute, Villa got a beautiful pass to Alex Ring, who fired one into the top right corner, definitely a contender for goal of the year, to tie the game at 2.
This was Ring’s first goal with NYCFC, and it came in his first start since March 17.
For NYCFC, this closed out a big day for their organization, as their parent club, Manchester City, clinched the English Premier League championship.
Atlanta United FC plays their home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Falcons, and attendance for this one was 45.001.
Vieira said of what it’s like playing in Atlanta, who is in their second year in the MLS, “It is fantastic. I was really looking forward to coming here because watching games on TV, looking at the atmosphere, the fans, it is a tough place to come and play, of course. The atmosphere is the best in this league. I think they stand our really high for the other teams to follow behind. This is part of improving the league and it is good to play football on a field like that.”