May 10, 2015
TOUGH TIMES FOR A CHAMPION
NYC FC's David Villa: 'We've hit rock bottom'
By Michael Lewis
|David Villa: "We just need to win, we need to recover with a win and gain the momentum back."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. – Quite simply, David Villa is a champion, something he has become accustomed to over the past decade or so.
He has celebrated four of the biggest championships a player can for country and club -- the World Cup, European Championship, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
So, the 33-year-old Spanish striker isn't used to losing, especially when it comes in bunches.
Then again, we never thought we would hear the greatest goal-scorer in Spanish national team history utter these words after New York City FC extended its winless streak to eight games (0-6-2) and its losing streak to four after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Red Bulls in the first derby match between the two rivals at Red Bull Arena Sunday:
"We've hit rock bottom."
Technically, the expansion team hasn't. In spite of the team's abysmal 1-6-3 record and ninth-place showing in the Eastern Conference (according to the league's official standings as it is tied with the even more woeful Philadelphia Union with six points apiece), NYC FC does not own the league’s worst record – at least not yet. The Montreal Impact has accrued two points thanks to a 0-3-2 record. But Villa made his point.
Can things get any worse for what is turning into a nightmare inaugural season for NYC FC?
"We just need to win, we need to recover with a win and gain the momentum back," Villa said through an interpreter in a somber NYC FC locker room. "It's a bad spell. With a win we are able to gain confidence. We've had good spells of games, against Seattle, even against Chicago before they scored. We're just paying [for] mistakes very dearly. We just need a win to recover our confidence."
Of course, that might be easier said than done.
It has been a difficult start for Villa as a teammate and as a player. He hasn't played as much as he would want due to a hamstring, adductor and hip ailments that have followed him this season. That has limited him to two goals and one assist in seven games and six starts over 509 minutes.
He lasted 68 minutes Sunday before head coach Jason Kreis pulled him for Patrick Mullins in the 68th minute.
Villa did not look like a man who wanted to leave the game. Kreis said he was not concerned about the Spaniard's reaction.
"I think he was a little bit confused as to why he was coming off," he said. "I think he's just such a natural-born competitor that he wants to stay on for all 90 minutes. Probably if it were up to him he'd go and get injured if he thought it would've helped us get a point. I spoke to him briefly and there's no problem."
Villa denied he had any problems with the sub.
"Of course, I always want to stay on the pitch, but coach Kreis is looking after me considering the injury," Villa said. "Obviously the team needs me and I want to stay on the pitch as long as I can. Coach Kreis explained to me. He didn't want to force it. I'm still recuperating and he did it for my best interest and for the interest of the team."
The best interest for the team right now would be a win or even a draw, just to regain some missing confidence.
"Obviously this is a challenge or challenges that I have faced throughout my career," Villa said. "You have to adapt the best way you can. It's a bad situation beyond the chemistry. We're just going to continue working together. It's just a tough situation."
Villa and NYC FC won't have much time to lick their collective wounds -- mental or physical. They will have four days to prepare for their next challenge -- the Chicago Fire at Yankee Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.
"We're at a bad spell at the moment," he said. "We have to continue to work hard. We've hit rock bottom and we need to work harder to look forward to our next game."