David Villa and Andrea Pirlo only played a little more than 30 minutes of the 2016 MLS All-Star Game, but both New York City FC standouts entertained in the exhibition match against Arsenal of the English Premier League Thursday evening at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.
Both players were in San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear’s starting XI and it took little time for both to make an impact.
In the seventh minute, Villa latched onto a ball by Orlando City star Kaka and dribbled into the box, but the shot by the NYCFC captain – one of three in 32 minutes – was blocked.
One minute later, Pirlo, who is tied with NYCFC teammate Tommy McNamara for third in MLS with eight assists, picked out Giovani dos Santos of the LA Galaxy with a sublime ball deep in the midfield. Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech saved the Mexican international’s low shot towards the far post.
Villa, who scored what proved to be the winner in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in last year’s MLS All-Star Game, electrified with some dribbling along the end line to get around Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy, but the ball he cut back toward the six-yard box was deflected away in the 15th minute.
Four minutes later, Villa, who leads MLS with 13 goals, latched onto a ball from Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman, but his bicycle kick attempt was off target.
Just before leaving the game, Villa played a dangerous ball across the goalmouth, but none of his MLS All-Star teammates were there to receive it.
During a mandated hydration break, both NYCFC stars went to the bench as the first two of Kinnear’s changes. Villa left the match for Ignacio Piatti of the Montreal Impact and Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan replaced Pirlo. Both changes came in the 32nd minute.
Both players were expected to fly back to New York Thursday night and will rejoin NYCFC, which takes on the Colorado Rapids at Yankee Stadium Saturday at 3 p.m.
“It was a good experience,” Pirlo said. “For me, [my] first all-star game was a good match against a good team. Now I come back to New York because Saturday we have a great match.”