BRONX, N.Y. — After his team drew Orlando City SC, 1-1, at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon to close out a three-game in seven-day stretch with seven points, New York City FC coach Dome Torrent proclaimed his team is playing much better than they were a month ago.
The arrival of Heber has a lot to do with that.
The Brazilian has only been here for three weeks, but he’s made an immediate impact on changing the Cityzens fortunes and helping them ascend rapidly up the Eastern Conference table and above the playoff line.
“I think about Heber, we have the right player right now,” Torrent said. “I don’t want to talk about what happened one or two months ago, everyone knew we needed a striker because David Villa decided to go to play in another country.”
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Since Heber entered the starting XI last Sunday against D.C. United, the club is 2-0-1 with Heber playing a role in all four of NYCFC’s goals during that stretch, while also being an important valve up the field to alleviate pressure with his holdup play.
“I’m very happy with the club right now and I’m very happy with Heber because you know he helps a lot,” Torrent said. “We didn’t have these kind of players. He’s able to score, he’s able to assist and, when you’re in trouble, keep the ball. That’s very important for us.”
Heber said after the 2-0 win over D.C. United, in which he had a goal and an assist, that he was tired. Understandable, considering it was his first competitive start since December with HNK Rijeka. But then he played 89 minutes on Wednesday night, setting up Valentin Castellanos’ winner in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire, and went the distance Saturday afternoon.
Scoring the equalizer against the Lions, it turns out, provided the needed energy boost to get through the busy stretch.
“Now I feel very good,” he said. “After you score it’s the best feeling. But really, I’m very tired, but I’m very happy to help my teammates and for these three results we had this week.”
It’s a dream start for Heber, and perhaps validation for Torrent that NYCFC got the right man, but Heber doesn’t want to stop at one strong week.
“I’m very happy to score these goals, to give assists, to play good, that’s most important,” he said. “When you work hard, when you give everything on the pitch, everything comes and my teammates also help me a lot. They were very welcoming when I came, they helped me a lot to adapt as fast as I can. I hope I keep like that and I continue scoring, give assists and help my team.”
With the way Heber is producing, his teammates are more than happy to do so.
“Well done to Heber. We knew in training he had quality to bring us a different way to play,” defender Maxime Chanot told MLSsoccer.com. “He can keep the ball. It’s really important for us to have a player like him. We’re really happy to have him on the team and we’re looking forward to keep going to play with him and see many goals scored by him.”