Public in their search for a striker, New York City FC got their man on Thursday.
The club announced the signing of Brazilian striker Heber from Croatian side HNK Rijeka, completed using Targeted Allocation Money. Coming from the Croatian league, with a stop in Armenia before that, the 27-year-old is an unknown commodity around these parts.
So, who is Heber?
"Fans shouldn’t think of him as a natural No. 9 — he’s more a Thierry Henry type in terms of his ability to lie in the left-hand side channel and use his pace and agility to work chances," Croatian soccer expert Richard Wilson told MLSsoccer.com. "His scoring record at Rijeka has shown just how effective he can be at that."
While at Rijeka, Heber had 27 goals and 13 assists in 52 appearances. Before that, he featured in the Armenian Premier League, where he was the league's top goalscorer in 2015-16 while playing for Alashkert.
"It’s possibly a trope to say so for a Brazilian, but his technique is what makes him dangerous," Wilson said. "You cannot thrive as a player in Croatia without a good first touch and a level of comfort on the ball. What sets him apart is that he carries real pace with that and also a natural ability to time his run around the back of defenders."
As for how Heber will fit within the lineup, he is fluid across multiple attacking positions. While he spent much of his time at Rijeka on the wing, he's expected to line up at center forward in New York. With NYCFC's interchangeable attack, featuring the likes of Alexandru Mitrita, Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina and more, Heber will fit right in.
"If NYCFC fans are looking for a central striker around which the attack rotates, Heber probably isn’t it," Wilson said. "If fans are looking for a versatile player who can slot into a role as part of a larger attacking unit (which is how I’d expect him to be deployed) - he’s the guy."
That's the guy that head coach Dome Torrent was looking for.
Wilson adds that his scoring record is even more impressive when considering the context that the Croatian league isn't a high scoring one. One minor problem is that Heber hasn't featured for his club since December, though that's not an issue.
"The league has been on a break for much of that period and, with Igor Biscan in as new manager, there was already an expectation that the team of Matjaz Kek would start to be sold," Wilson explained. "As such, he was kept out of the team in expectation of this move and, while it will take him time to recover a bit of match fitness, it’s not something that would be a major concern."
"He’s a relaxed, jovial personality who should be popular with fans and with teammates," Wilson added.
As long as Heber scores goals, he'll quickly become a fan favorite.