June 29, 2018 / 6:02 PM / 5 months ago

Villa out as NYCFC head to Chicago

New York City FC will be without All-Star forward David Villa when they visit the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Villa injured his right knee during last Sunday’s victory over Toronto FC and could miss multiple games. The 36-year-old has 71 goals in three-plus seasons with New York City, including a team-best eight this season.

It goes without saying that the loss of the team captain is a rough development for NYCFC (9-3-4, 31 points), which is three points behind first-place Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s bad news for us because he’s a key man for our team,” recently hired coach Domenec Torrent told reporters. “He has a lot of experience, especially in these kind of games.

“It’s not good news, but we have fantastic players. I think we have a talented team. ... It’s not easy for us because he’s the reference in our offensive team.”

The Fire (5-7-5) are seventh in the East with 20 points and bring a four-match unbeaten streak into the contest.

Chicago began its streak with a victory over the San Jose Earthquakes and followed up with ties against the New England Revolution, Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders.

The stretch is pleasing to coach Veljko Paunovic, who is observing the type of progress that will be needed to climb up the standings.

“I think the pieces are fitting together better and I think the guys now know each other better,” Paunovic told reporters. “I’m talking about the new players, who had opportunity to play, who actually needed time to get on the same page with the old guys.

“It’s getting to the point where we are understanding each other much better, and now the team actually plays more as a team.”

Midfielder Aleksandar Katai and forward Nemanja Nikolic share the team lead with six goals, while forward Alan Gordon has four.

Saturday will mark Torrent’s second game since replacing Patrick Vieira as coach.

NYCFC is 2-0-1 over its last three matches and received two goals from forward Jo Inge Berget in the victory over Toronto FC.

“Everybody knows we have a player like Jo,” Torrent told reporters. “He’s able to play like a striker, sometimes we play quick, long ball, set the ball and attack and attack quickly. It’s the best way.”

Berget, who has three goals on the season, will aid forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (seven goals) and midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (six goals, seven assists) in leading the offense with Villa sidelined.

NYCFC is unbeaten in its last six meetings (3-0-3) against Chicago.

—Field Level Media

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