As momentous as his 50th goal was for New York City FC, No. 51 turned out to be even more important for David Villa on Saturday.
The Spanish international became the fifth fastest player in MLS history to reach that golden milestone, but his next score meant more because it was worth three valuable points.
Villa’s 77th-minute goal lifted City to a 2-1 comeback win over MLS defending champion Seattle Sounders in a game that was played in a torrential downpour at Yankee Stadium.
It also ended a four-match league scoring drought — for the 35-year-old forward.
“My objective is not to score 50 goals,” said Villa, who played in his 78th MLS match. “It is to score 52. I am pained when I don’t score my goals. It doesn’t matter the numbers, I try to score for the team to win.”
Coach Patrick Vieira, whose 8-5-3 team solidified its third-place standing in the Eastern Conference (27 points), appreciated Villa because he has not used MLS as a retirement league as many have.
“I am not surprised because you have to look at David’s career and what he has achieved,” he said. “It’s not easy to be the top goal-scorer in Spanish history. It’s not easy to win the Champions League, to win the World Cup. The quality was there and it will always be there.
“In our society we judge people a bit too early, a bit too quick. We just have to take it case by case. He’s working hard for the team and he gets rewarded.”
The incessant rain made it an adventure. Sometimes keeping one’s balance and avoiding slipping and sliding unintentionally took top priority.
Villa just shrugged it off. “It’s great for us because the today’s conditions were not good,” he said. “It was not good for both teams. You need to do well whatever the weather conditions.”
After Cristian Roldan gave the Sounders a 40th-minute lead, Villa rammed a long shot off the right post in first-half stoppage time. Walking off the field for halftime, he kicked a sign in frustration.
Seven minutes into the second half, he wound up kicking a penalty kick past goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Referee Robert Sibiga ruled that Oniel Fisher had taken down Villa in the box, though replays showed the defender touched the ball.
In the 77th minute, the Spaniard made no mistake. Jack Harrison whirled around the right side of the box to make himself free and sent a cross to an unmarked Villa, who scored from seven yards.
“I knew after David had crossed the ball to me he’d be on the back post, so I figured that’s where the space would be,” Harrison said. “David finished it off perfectly.”