NEW YORK — New York City FC has finally secured a striker for 2019 – although he has not played as a center forward professionally since the summer of 2017.
A club source in Croatia confirmed that Brazilian forward Héber Araujo dos Santos, known as Héber, will transfer from HNK Rijeka to NYCFC pending the completion of the necessary visa paperwork.
Croatian publication Sportske Novosti was the first to report Héber’s intentions of joining a Major League Soccer club, linking him with NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls last week.
At 5-foot-11, Héber has the stature of a true No. 9. However, his eight goals with four assists in 17 matches for Rijeka during the 2018-19 season have all been recorded from a left wing position, according to transfer-tracking website transfermarkt.
His last appearance as a striker was July 29, 2017, for Rijeka in a 2-0 win over Istra. Héber did not score in the match.
🎙️@Heber__Araujo: Bio je to sjajan dan za mene i ekipu. Važna utakmica jer pobjeda nam je nosila drugo mjesto. Trener mi je na poluvremenu dao savjet da pucam u situacijama jedan na jedan, poslušao sam ga i zabio, hvala treneru! https://t.co/oa28SGhQBo#ZajednosmoRijeka pic.twitter.com/j2N7WIeT8T
— NK Rijeka (@NKRijeka) December 9, 2018
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent has been candid about the club’s need for a typical striker and believes that his side is a No. 9 away from being a legitimate MLS Cup contender.
The second-year manager has been forced to utilize a stable of players, including Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita, Jesus Medina and Valentin Castellanos, who are not accustomed to the center forward role.
“I am not used to playing as a No. 9. That’s a completely new position for me,” Castellanos said after the recent 0-0 draw with D.C. United. “I need to keep on working on refining it. As I am a winger, everything is about improving myself in those positions when game time comes.”
Héber has played 16 of his last 62 professional matches as a center forward (two goals, no assists) and has 46 appearances at left wing (32 goals, eight assists) during that time.
He has UEFA Champions League and Europa League experience with a goal against Olympiacos in the first leg of a Champions League play-off in 2017.