BRONX, N.Y. — Sean Johnson didn’t know the initial timeline, but when he watched Yangel Herrera stretchered off the field in Houston in late May, the New York City FC goalkeeper realized he would be out for a while.
Now after NYCFC's three-week break in league play, the wait for his return appears to be over, with the 20-year-old Venezuelan now training fully with Johnson and the rest of the squad.
“He’s been back on the training pitch, he looks good, said he feels good so happy to have him back, he’s a big part of what we’ve had going,” Johnson said. “Obviously the past year and a half, he’s been really good for us. To have all hands on deck going into the playoffs I think is important for us.”
Initially feared done for the remainder of 2018, the on-loan midfielder from Manchester City will likely come off the bench against D.C. United Sunday (3 pm ET | TV & Streaming info), And if his first game action in five months goes well, he could see added minutes in a Decision Day presented by AT&T clash at home against the Philadelphia Union.
“Yangel’s very close,” NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. “He’s been training now for a few weeks with the team. He looks really good. He’s of course not 100 percent because he’s been out for sometime. He feels good. It’s about trying to get his sharpness back. I think they’ll be minutes for him in the upcoming games.”
Last week, NYCFC coach Dome Torrent expected Herrera to see “15-20 minutes” on Sunday. The challenge will be getting Herrera match fit in time for the playoffs in a few weeks.
“It’s good that he’s young,” Reyna said. “When you’re younger you get into match sharpness quicker than as you age, so that’s a plus for him. It’s important to see what kind of minutes we can get him to prepare him and move him along as much as possible. But of course it’s difficult, but we’re convinced he can come in and help the team in the last few games and also in the playoffs.”
That’s unexpected positive news for NYCFC, which sorely missed Herrera’s athleticism, defensive work rate and overall soccer IQ in the midfield. His return likely means NYCFC can play with a pair of No. 6s with Herrera partnering with Alex Ring.
“He provides something unique to us in midfield,” Reyna said. “He’s really strong defensively, how much he covers, he’s also a really good link and can get to the box and score and be part of our attacking game as well.”
NYCFC were 7-2-3 this season with Herrera in the starting XI. Ring, for one, is hoping his return can provide a needed spark for what the club hopes is a deep MLS Cup playoff run.
“We’ve missed him,” Ring said. “He’s a physical presence on the pitch. I hope he gets as many minutes as possible before the playoffs because we’re going to need him definitely.”