June 16, 2015
DAVID VS. RAUL? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT
Villa says he is looking forward taking on the Spanish legend -- if he plays for NYC FC
By Michael Lewis
|Raul (left) is expected to play for the Cosmos while David Villa's availability is in question for NYC FC.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Almost as big as Wednesday's Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup game between New York City FC and the Cosmos is the confrontation two Spanish scoring legends bumping heads in America.
After all, the two greats play only 27 miles but two leagues apart, which makes this meeting so special.
NYC FC captain and striker David Villa, who Tuesday was named Major League Soccer player of the week, admitted he did not know if he would play against Raul at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. at 7:30 p.m. ET. But he certainly would welcome taking on his rival.
"It would be good to play against Raul again," Villa said through a translator after NYC FC training at Purchase College Tuesday afternoon. "He is a legend in Spanish soccer. Itís important to play against him, but the city derby is more important, and we hope to win and progress to the next round."
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said Monday that Raul would play. His NYC FC counterpart, Jason Kreis, would not talk about any player who might or might not see action.
"I donít know yet," Villa said. "The coach will decided and we will know this morning."
Villa cautioned about NYC FC (first division Major League Soccer) playing against the Cosmos (second-tier North American Soccer League).
"We always have to respect our opponent, and we need to win," he said.
It is a rare confrontation of the two greatest international goal-scorers in Spanish history. Villa (59 goals) surpassed Raul (44 goals).
It is quite is appropriate they are playing in a derby. While they did not play against each other for their respective teams in Spain's La Liga -- Raul left Real Madrid before Villa joined Barcelona -- they have played against each other in the past.
Villa said that he is friends with Raul.
"I recently spoke with him and we were at an event from the Spanish league," he said. "And, well, we knew that this would eventually happen, and I am very excited about seeing him and playing against him, and hopefully we can win."
Villa, 33, several years younger than Raul, who turns 38 on June 27, said he looked up to the Cosmos striker when he was growing up.
"Yes, of course," he said. "He played for Real Madrid and I played for Barca but yes, a great player."
The Cosmos did not make Raul available to the media prior to the match.