NYCFC sorely misses Villa in first loss in club history

Spanish star David Villa sat out NYCFC's match Saturday, and his team failed to find the net without him in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.

NEW YORK — In New York City FC’s first match at Yankee Stadium, David Villa showed the sell-out crowd just how special a player he could be. And, in the club’s second home match at the famed baseball venue, NYCFC showed just how much it needs the Spanish star.

Villa missed Saturday’s match against Sporting Kansas City, and the result was about what you would expect from a team playing without its best player. The NYCFC attack struggled to test Sporting KC goalkeeper Luis Marin all night and finished without a goal in dropping a 1-0 decision that marked the first loss in club history.

NYCFC head coach deployed a one-forward attack with Patrick Mullins alone up top and the squad showed very little of the fluidity and creativity on display two weeks earlier in the win against New England. There were several attacking players missing due to international duty (Adam Nemec and Khiry Shelton) and injury (Sebastian Velasquez), but no player was missed more than Villa, who sat out with an adductor strain that had been bothering him since before the team’s season opener.

“We’ve been managing it since before the Orlando City match,” Kreis said of Villa’s injury. “Every single game got to a point where we were very questionable about whether he was going to be available for that match.

“He’s managed through the pain and swelling, and we’ve been doing treatments with him pretty much non-stop to give him the best opportunity to play,” Kreis said. “Every week in the prior three weeks, the day before the game he said, ‘Yeah, it feels good. I’m ready to go.' Yesterday was the first time when it’s just like, ‘No, the pain is too unbearable this time.’”

“We believe strongly that with, now, a week off where he will do nothing but strengthening and physiotherapy, he won’t get involved with the team at all, we believe that we can get him in the right place to get him ready for the Philadelphia match (on April 11).”

Without Villa and a trio of other attackers, NYCFC managed three shots on goal, none of which could be considered dangerous. The team showed improvement in the second half, with late-game substitutes Tony Taylor and Kwadwo Poku providing some energy and putting some pressure on the Sporting KC defense.

That late-game surge gave Kreis some consolation on a night when, though Kreis wouldn’t go so far as to outright admit it, NYCFC sorely missed Villa.

“I don’t think there was a moment when it would fall to somebody’s foot and I said, “Oh, if that was Villa that’s a goal' or 'If that was Nemec that’s a goal,'” Kreis said. “I can’t say there was a moment when I thought someone should have finished.

“I thought the guys did a good job of getting it into some really dangerous positions and it’s unfortunate that the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

It was also unfortunate that Villa’s injury kept him out on Saturday, because has he has shown throughout his career, and two weeks earlier at Yankee Stadium, he has a habit of making the ball bounce his way.