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David Villa’s return, and what it means for NYCFC

El Guaje is back in training. That is huge!

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York City FC Chris Bergmann-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC winning three games within a one-week span is impressive enough. The fact that they defeated the ever-dangerous New York Red Bulls, the surging Montreal Impact, and the consistently pesky Columbus Crew, is even more admirable.

But do you know what makes this particular feat the most impressive? NYCFC did it without primary goal-scorers David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and the emerging Jo Inge Berget.

Instead, the Bronx Blues relied upon the contributions of Jesus Medina, Jonathan Lewis, and Maxi Moralez in order to find the goals they needed. The defense also played a pivotal role in skyrocketing NYCFC back into Supporter’s Shield contention, collecting three clean sheets in as many games thanks to the consummate performances from center back Alex Callens and goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Don’t get me wrong, all three wins were great and definitely added up to what some could call the best week in the club’s history. But all three of them were a grind from start to finish due to the fact that NYCFC lacked a clinical finisher on the pitch.

But, all of that is about to change.

One week ahead of NYCFC’s midseason clash with Orlando City, David Villa has returned to training with the club for the first time since sustaining a knee injury against Toronto FC on June 24 — the date of Domé Torrent’s first game as the club’s manager.

The value of Villa’s return into the fray cannot be understated. We’ve all heard the stats before, but let’s run through them one more time. In 104 total games with New York City, El Guaje has scored a total of 71 goals and has become one of the most prolific and clinical finishers in MLS history. Even at the ripe age of 36, Villa is still contributing. In 10 appearances this year, NYCFC’s inaugural captain has racked up 8 goals and has assisted 4 others.

Given City’s stellar form as of recent and the tactical advancements set in place by Domé Torrent, Villa could very well be the piece that catapults NYCFC from a budding contender to a dominant force within MLS. We’ve already seen what they can do without him. Now, imagine Villa being on the pitch; many of those missed opportunities that were seen in that week-long stretch might have been converted, turning some of those games from scrappy contests into absolute routs (the Red Bulls game immediately comes to mind).

We still have a week to go before NYCFC’s matchup against Orlando and still don’t know whether or not Villa will be physically fit for the bout in the Sunshine State. But the fact that we are inching closer to seeing that legendary no. 7 in the attacking third means that City is possibly on the verge of becoming everything that they’re supposed to be, if not more.