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Talking with David Villa about growing the American game, Jonathan Lewis’s breakout, and how far NYCFC can go

We caught up with the captain and reigning league MVP ahead of Friday’s Rivalry Week showdown.

Video courtesy of Heineken

His name isn’t David Villa. Not anymore.

You must call him soccer.

Courtesy of Heineken, once again the sponsor of Rivalry Week in MLS, we had the chance to speak with New York City FC’s captain, jedi master, and Azor Ahai by phone on Wednesday about a smattering of hot topics.

Somehow, we kept it together.

(Or maybe we didn’t. You be the judge.)

Let’s get right to our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity:

Hudson River Blue: This is all possible because of Heineken. How did your relationship with them begin?

David Villa: I work with Heineken [some] time ago. We try to help to show soccer in America growing, soccer in MLS growing. We did a lot of campaigns that was amazing for me. Now, we are involved in this new campaign.

HRB: Everybody saw the “You can call me soccer” TV ad. Has anyone ever called you soccer?

DV7: [Laughs] It was nice. It was really, really, really important for soccer in America. A lot of people saw me on TV, said the commercial was great. “Soccer is here.” “You can call me soccer.” I enjoy a lot in the day we film the clip.

HRB: NYCFC is playing well right now, and you’ve had a lot to do with that. What’s the mood among you and your teammates, and how far can this team go?

DV7: We are happy. We are happy so far. We are in great position, second position in this conference. We play well the last game. I am healthy, I work, and I score goals for the team. But it’s not thinking about what we did, it’s thinking about what we need to do in the future. So, with nine games more, we try game by game to try to win the nine and try to get the best position to fight for MLS Cup in the playoffs.

Photo courtesy of Heineken

HRB: Patrick Vieira said Sunday that Toronto was going to win the Supporters’ Shield and that everybody else was fighting for second place. Was there a hidden message there? Do you feel like you guys can win the Shield?

DV7: My feeling is that Patrick is an intelligent man. He knows better than anyone what [we] need to say, and I don’t want to play with his mind. Of course, in this part I agree with him that Toronto is still in a situation [that’s] really difficult for the rest of the teams.

It’s not about NYCFC. It’s not about the Red Bulls. They are better than all the teams in MLS, but we have another nine games, and we’ll see. But if they are still like now, it should be difficult to beat them in the schedule for the Supporters’ Shield. We will try in the playoffs, but for Supporters’ Shield, [they] have a big advantage over the other teams.

HRB: When players like you come over to MLS, it builds the profile of American soccer, but something that’s just as important is the development of the U.S. national teams. As you watch the emergence of Jonathan Lewis, do you see a future impact player for the USA?

DV7: Of course. In the future, in the present. For the club, it’s really, really important for the guys to go to the national team. Of course, we’re talking about Jonathan Lewis, he’s young. He needs to improve a lot. He needs to work to be strong with the passing of time because he’s only played 7 or 8 games. But he has all the condition for, in the future, to join the U.S. National Team, so we will try. We will try to help him.

HRB: What’s most special about Jonathan’s game?

DV7: I think he’s special because he doesn’t have a fear. And normally when you start to play professional – he started to play professional three months ago – you have a fear because it’s not the same to play with the young guys in the academy; going to college. And sometimes you need time to accommodate to a professional player, to the professional game. So I’m feeling that when I see him training the same way that he plays, this is really, really important for a young guy, to accommodate to the professional game. He doesn’t feel the pressure when he needs to play. And this is, for me, very important.


Thanks to KEF Media and SB Nation’s own Jeremiah Oshan for setting this one up for us! To learn more about Heineken’s “Soccer Is Here” campaign, check them out on Twitter or visit them on the good ol’ web.