David Villa had an incredible 2016 season and now he has a trophy to prove it. The New York City FC striker was named MLS MVP, beating out a pair of finalists from the New York Red Bulls, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan.
Villa finished the season with 23 goals, along with four assists. Incredibly, the Spaniard was involved in 44 percent of NYCFC's goals, highlighting his importance to an attack that needed every goal they could manage. NYCFC finished second in the East despite being in just their second season and giving up more goals than any other playoff team. They leaned heavily on their attack, needing every single goal it could give them, and that meant leaning on Villa, who delivered.
NYCFC's turnaround was one of the great stories of 2016, and much of that was down to Villa. While they certainly improved all over the field, they were a flawed team and often only won matches because Villa was able to do things that no one on their opposition could. Maybe most amazingly, Villa played in 33 matches, starting 32, for NYCFC at 35 years old. Week in, week out, NYCFC could count on Villa.
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The battle for MVP came down to league leaders, with Wright-Phillips leading the league in goals and Kljestan topping the assists chart, but Villa finished second in goals so he was right there too. It's possible that Wright-Phillips and Kljestan split the vote, with people deciding which of the two was more valuable to the Red Bulls, while Villa benefitted from being the only choice from NYCFC. Or, maybe voters saw that both Wright-Phillips and Kljestan had help, while Villa was doing the heavy lifting by himself.
Villa is the first Spaniard to ever win MVP honors, but the third consecutive big name European Designated Player, following Robbie Keane and Sebastian Giovinco. Neither Keane nor Giovinco scored as many goals as Villa did this season, though, nor did either carry a team that was in just its second season of existence. And that was enough to earn Villa the top individual honor in MLS.