New York City FC forward David Villa won the 2016 MLS MVP award, the league announced on Tuesday.
Villa outlasted New York Red Bulls stars Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan to become the first Spanish player to win the award. Villa received 25.9% of the vote, while Wright-Phillips earned 19.3% and Kljestan received 17.6%.
2015 MVP and Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco was fourth with 16.3% of the vote, while Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti was fifth with 7.7%. All five players were represented on the league's annual Best XI.
Villa followed his 18-goal debut season in 2015 with 23 in 2016, falling a goal shy of Wright-Phillips for the league's Golden Boot. Wright-Phillips held high praise for Villa, telling SI's Brian Straus in October: “I remember when he came to the league, I wasn’t sure what he would be like. Would he even celebrate when he scored? Does this mean as much to him? When you watch him play, you see you’re getting the best out of him. It’s like he’s still playing for Barcelona. It’s a credit to him. He’s got every right to be arrogant and it’s unbelievable he’s banging in goals and still celebrating. There’s humility—he works hard, running back, tracking back, tackling. He doesn’t have to do all that, but to see how much he cares and how much he does, it’s very nice to see.”
Villa led NYCFC's impressive turnaround after a woeful inaugural season, and the club finished second in the Eastern Conference standings, three points shy of the Red Bulls. The club's 54 points were 17 more than the season before. NYCFC was ousted in the conference semifinals by MLS Cup finalist Toronto FC.
Villa, who turned 35 on Saturday, told SI's Grant Wahl that he's in talks to extend his contract with NYCFC. His current deal goes through the 2017 season.