Now, they'll have to navigate most of the stretch drive of the regular season without their star striker, with coach Dome Torrent revealing Thursday the Brazilian will be out for the next 3-4 weeks with a quadriceps injury.
“Heber will miss at least three or four weeks. Maybe, I don’t know for sure, maybe he’s ready to play against Philadelphia,” Torrent said, referring to the Decision Day presented by AT&T clash against the Union.
The injury comes just as the 28-year-old, who arrived from HNK Rijeka in late March, was enjoying his best form of the season. He scored in back-to-back games, including against the Whitecaps, and had five goals in his last five.
With Heber in the starting XI, NYCFC is 12W-2L-3D.
“When it’s the quadricep its not easy because you have a high risk to get injured again,” Torrent said. “It is what it is. This is soccer and sometimes it happens.”
Heber has also forged a lethal attacking combination with Taty Castellanos, who has 10 goals in 17 starts. The young Argentine will be even more important in Heber’s absence.
“Of course he’s been a great, great player for us and scored a lot of goals. He’s been great for us, but it is what it is,” fullback Anton Tinnerholm said of Heber. “I think it’s time for Taty again, he’s shown some quality this season and he’s been showing he’s a really good player. Maybe we’re going to change the formation. I don't know, let’s see what we're gonna do. But it's a crucial time of the season and we want nine points this week, and it starts on Saturday.”
The timetable for Heber’s return coincides with that of defenders James Sands (collarbone injury) and Joe Scally (hip injury). Sands trained on the side Thursday, while Scally was fully integrated with the team.
Ofori could be on the bench and available for “20-25” minutes Saturday (3:30 PM ET | Univision, Twitter, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) against the New England Revolution, while the same is true of Tajouri-Shradi when NYCFC host Toronto FC the following week.
“It’s difficult, but our job, my staff, is to find the best solution to play,” Torrent said. “I remember we played really well against Minnesota with Taty and Ismael and Maxi [Moralez] in between the lines. Right now we have [Gary Mackay-Steven], Jesus [Medina], we have [Alexandru Mitrita] who can play in this style.”