It’s not necessary for an athlete to know a language that is not native to him to play professional soccer at a high level. Many foreign players have come to MLS of which many did not feel the need to communicate in the language of the league.
David Villa and Andrea Pirlo of NYCFC are two athletes who take their job here seriously. They understand the prestige of their presence but have tried to fit in from the start.
At media day in the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central in Midtown New York, Villa, the defending MLS MVP and Pirlo both took center stage and conducted the opening press inquiries in English with limited references to their translators. This is a strong message from two core players to the team that they are trying to work out of their comfort zone.
They showed the initiative to lead this team in whatever form it takes. The first questions they tackled were their respective plans after their contracts are up next year bringing a sense of urgency to this year’s results.
“I don’t know if it’s my last season,” Pirlo said, “I go play for the club and when the time to decide comes it will be then. I don’t know my future.”
David Villa was in total agreement about looking beyond 2017. “In soccer you never know what’s going to happen,” he said, “It’s difficult to plan, everything changes from night to the morning.”
The desire for real competition to bring out the best in the team with the addition of several very talented players was the theme to make NYCFC better. It succeeded.
For Alex, not Alexander Ring who emphasized his Finish roots while adopting the best qualities of German play, the ruthlessness if you will that NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira is seeking comes out the pores of Ring.
“German youth soccer is at a high level. You can see that from the players they produce over the years,” Ring said, “You can feel it in the way I play.”
Frances Okoli, who has impressed with his attacking skills as embraced NYCFC knowing that he fit the formula Vieira was seeking. He understands NYCFC strikers must be “ruthless.” “It means not to let chances go by, to put teams away when we have the chance,” Okoli said, ”
Sean Johnson is learning as well, first as an authority behind the back four guarding the nets, decision making and interestingly we learned from Sean, will be playing his first game in Yankee Stadium, the differences between pitches from city to city.
“If you don’t have options to play it’s not possible,” Johnson said, “You can have the ability to play but if you don’t have a teammate to pass to, you have to smash it up the field.” Johnson compared the conditions goaltenders deal with and how to deal with it.
“We will play our style no matter the circumstances. We will figure out a way to play good football and win games whether it’s the size of the pitch. Every pitch won’t be the exact whether it’s a small field the type of grass,wind or depth perception, “Johnson explained.
NYCFC will be playing D.C. United at Yankee Stadium this Sunday and Villa, who is not interested so much about defending his MVP trophy as focusing on a team he sees as a major threat to the Blues desire to get their first three points of the season.
“The games are always different, we respect D.C. They are very tough, always a difficult game,” Villa said, “We have to play 100% as individuals and collectively for a team like D.C.”
Fortunately, NYCFC has a collection of new players who are capable of doing just that. They came back from a 2-0 deficit to steal a draw against Emelec in Ecuador. They outplayed Orlando City in their inaugural new park and came real close to getting at least a draw last week in the season opener.
Villa summarized the situation perfectly.
“We improved the second year, but the coach (Vieira) was new,” Villa said “He understands the things in the league now and we are more ready. There’s more stability and we have new players which improved us a lot. Our focus is this is our year.”