New York City FC will arrive at BMO Field on Friday night with a new weapon in its arsenal, but a weapon not quite locked and loaded.
On March 21, NYCFC signed Brazilian forward Heber Araujo dos Santos. Heber, as the prolific goal-scorer is known, recorded 25 goals in 38 appearances for HNK Rijeka of the Croatian league over the past two seasons and NYCFC fans are hoping he brings his goal-scoring prowess to the MLS.
However, it’s doubtful he will be on the field when the winless (though undefeated) Boys in Blue (0-3-0) travel to Toronto to face the Reds (2-0-0) at BMO Field.
Heber is stuck in VISA limbo in Brazil and is uncertain whether he’ll be able to join his new club for Friday’s match.
NYCFC have been looking for a striker since David Villa’s departure in the off season. TFC is thrilled that Villa is no longer with NYCFC as the Spanish footballer picked up eight goals in eight matches against the Reds.
But even without Heber in the lineup and the New Yorkers without a win this season in MLS action, Toronto head coach Greg Vanney certainly isn’t expecting an easy go of it on Friday.
“Look, they’re a good team,” Vanney said. “I know, three draws. (But) three games they could have won.”
There have been changes made to the NYCFC roster since last year, but Vanney expects to play a similar style to what they have in the past.
“They’re not going to change their identity,” he said. “They’re a team that wants to have the ball, they’re a team that is trying to move you out of spaces — all the things we’ve seen from them over the years, even when (former coach) Patrick (Vieira) was there, I don’t think it’s changed a ton.
“So we have to make sure we defend together. We can’t get pulled apart, we can’t get stretched out and (we have to) try to take advantage of our opportunities when we have the ball because we think we can hurt teams if we do things with intention in the right way.
“They’re part of the Man City group (City Football Group) and their coaching staff has all come through that similar philosophy,” Vanney added. “There will be nuances (of their game) that will be different. They’re playing (James) Sands as a young guy at the defensive midfield role, they’ve pushed (Alexander) Ring a little bit higher. (Alexandru) Mitrita is a nice player, very talented, he’s a guy who comes off the wing, can move with the ball, can move without the ball. He’s a dangerous player and nice addition to their group. (So) we’ve got to be aware of him both in possession, but even more importantly in some of the transition moments.”
After weeks of transfer negotiations, TFC fans will finally get a chance to watch the club’s new attacking midfielder, Alejandro Pozuelo, in action. His teammates have been impressed from what they’ve seen in the four days the Spanish footballer has trained with the club.
“He’s got a lot of quality. He’s very confident, he wants to get on the ball. He wants to get on the ball in tight spaces and he wants to make things happen for us. I think he’s exactly what we can use right now,” said veteran defender Drew Moor, adding that Pozuelo seems to have plenty of grit to go with his talent.
“Do we want to play beautiful football and get the ball down and knock it around and pull teams apart? Of course,” Moor said. “But I think we’ve proven in these first two (MLS) games that we can dig deep and we can grind it out and we’ll fight for each other as well. And I think he’s going to fit that mold.
“I think he’s played in a league maybe that’s (similar) to MLS in that sometimes you got to scrap, sometimes you got to fight and claw,” Moor added. “And so far he strikes me as one of those guys who will do that. And when he’s got time and space on the ball, he’s going to be dangerous.”
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