clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

David Villa is fun, dominant, and downright perfect for MLS

New York City FC couldn't have made a better choice for their first-ever signing.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

David Villa has played a part in every goal New York City FC has scored so far in MLS, recording a goal and two assists. They haven't come off simple passes and a tap-in, but off really gorgeous plays. He's killing opposing defenses, but not in a way that's so effortless that it's going to hurt anyone's feelings. Basically, he's the perfect designated player.

Villa is probably the best forward in MLS already. He's been here for two games, but had the great fortune to show up the year after the retirements of Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan, the guys who set up most of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Robbie Keane's goals. Villa's been downright dominant so far, and the throne is probably his for as long as he's healthy.

He scored this goal, his 300th professional club goal, on Saturday.

It was his first for the club, their first ever goal at home, and a showcase of everything that makes Villa great -- pace, movement off the ball, teamwork, first touch, clinical finishing. It was a complete striker's goal and it made the defenders around him look like amateurs.

But that goal, somehow, was only the third-most impressive thing that he did in New York City FC's 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on Saturday.

Here is the second-most impressive, a thing no other player in MLS would ever try in a real game, out of fear of screwing it up and getting an absolute hairdryer from their manager.

Here is the most impressive thing he did, the setup for Patrick Mullins' game-clinching goal. This is probably the best assist that anyone is going to record in MLS this season.

In these three plays, Villa presents himself as the perfect argument for and against the progress of the league.

On one hand, the ease with which he's destroying an MLS Cup finalist is comical. He's popping the ball up to himself to try ridiculous backheel flick passes in the middle of the pitch because he can. He's doing stutter step fakeout dribbling moves in the box when a regular cross would have gotten the job done because he can. No one is stopping him from playing this way. In a better league, there would be negative consequences for trying these things, but there is no one on the Revs that can make Villa pay for showboating. Villa is making MLS look like the second-rate retirement league its critics believe it to be.

On the other hand, holy crap, MLS got David Villa. A 33-year-old version, sure, but he's not broken down. He scored 16 goals for Barcelona two years ago, and 15 for Atletico Madrid last season. He played and scored in the last World Cup. This is not a player who is beyond usefulness to Champions League clubs. He came to MLS when he had another year or two to play at the absolute highest level. That the league is able to attract someone like that is amazing.

He appears to be taking this very seriously. He's talked a lot about how much he cares about making NYCFC the best team in the league and that he's honored to be the captain, coming off as totally believable.

At the same time, Villa is doing so with the knowledge that he's a hell of a lot better than everyone he's coming up against. It's the Henry way of doing things in MLS, and a model all big name MLS DPs should follow -- you're here to win things and entertain people in equal parts. Tricks and prioritizing winning games are not mutually exclusive. They should go hand-in-hand, and Villa appears to understand that perfectly.

For all of this, Villa and MLS are a perfect marriage. The league has something to sell that people can actually take at face value for once, Villa gets to dominate and we get to enjoy the hell out of it.