Heber poised for New York City FC return after torn ACL

New York City FC will be without leading scorer Valentin Castellanos for their Tuesday night cross-conference game against FC Dallas due to yellow-card accumulation (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), though a familiar face seems poised to possibly pick up any slack.

Addressing media members on Monday, head coach Ronny Deila said that Heber could make his long-awaited return from an ACL tear that he suffered in September 2020 – nearly exactly one year ago.

The 30-year-old Brazilian forward is yet to feature this season, instead rehabbing to factor into NYCFC’s push for an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs run.

“There's a big, big chance that Heber is back in the squad for the game,” Deila said. “So that's one very, very positive thing.”

Deila wouldn’t confirm if Heber will start for NYCFC, adding they have other options in Jesus Medina and Maxi Moralez – two South American talents who missed last weekend’s 2-1 loss at the Supporters’ Shield-leading New England Revolution. He also highlighted Brazilian youngster Talles Magno and Thiago Andrade as other options.

Heber’s return to the squad would be embraced by NYCFC, though, since he recorded a team-leading 15 goals during the 2019 season – his first upon joining from Croatian side HNK Rijeka. More contributions of that ilk would add another threat alongside Castellanos, either from the jump or off the bench.

“We haven't decided yet what we do, but we will have options there,” Deila said. “It's important also to see what we do when Taty's out and how we react to that. So we'll see when the game starts what we do.”

NYCFC had previously shared an emotional video of Heber getting the all-clear to participate in full first-team training. That dedication has resonated with his teammates at their training facility in Orangeburg, N.Y.

“He's our guy and just to see all of the hard work he's put in all year, really – to get to this point, it's inspiring to the guys around him,” defender James Sands. “We're all just rooting for him at this point, so whenever he does make his debut back we're all going to be supporting him. For the team, it's a huge addition, just bringing in someone like that who's got experience, can score goals. I think it's going to help in so many different ways.”