NEW YORK — While Alexandru Mitriță has electrified the New York City FC supporters in his brief time with the Pigeons, the “Romanian Giovinco” has produced just one goal in the initial four matches of his MLS career.
Without a goal scoring talisman, NYCFC (0-1-3) is also wanting for a victory in those four games – the worst start to a season since the franchise was born in 2015. On Saturday, the oglers will be keen on the 5-foot-11 Brazilian forward, Héber, who is expected to make his debut at Yankee Stadium against the Montreal Impact.
“He has in the legs three or four training sessions,” head coach Dome Torrent said after Wednesday’s practice. “We have two more training sessions to decide whether he will be in the XI or maybe the last 30 or 40 minutes.”
The 27-year old Héber, a transfer from Rijeka in the Croatian first division, has been a consistent finisher in his professional career – 51 goals in 91 appearances. Whether he can produce in a manner to minimize the frequent references to David Villa, who fashioned 77 regular season goals in his four seasons in the Bronx, is a central issue.
“Everybody knows right now in the training sessions he’s a scorer,” Torrent said. “He’s a different player and a different style for us. He attacks all the time behind them. If you need to keep the ball, he’s able to keep the ball as well.”
Torrent revealed that the on-field relationship between Mitriță, Héber and playmaker Maxi Moralez is likely to be delayed by at least a week.
Moralez has yet to train this week, indicating he will miss his second consecutive match with a calf injury.
“Right now he has discomfort,” Torrent said. “If it’s impossible to play without Maxi, we have to play with another player. When you miss one or two DP’s its not easy to play against these type of teams.”
While Young DP Jesus Medina has been at Torrent’s disposal – his playing time has been erratic due to inconsistent performances. The Paraguayan forward, who was spectacular with a goal and assist on March 4 at Sporting KC in his MLS debut last year, has failed to score for the club since August 4, 2018 – a stretch of 16 matches.
His last assist was on July 11 – or 20 matches ago – in a 3-0 win at Yankee Stadium against this week’s opponent, Montreal.
Torrent said Medina is a candidate to fill in for Moralez while not discounting the possible unveiling of 21-year old transfer Keaton Parks in a starting role.
“Maybe,” Torrent said.
Parks’ lone appearance was a two-minute cameo in a 2-2 draw at Orlando City to open the season.
As for recovering from the 4-0 drubbing at Toronto FC last weekend, Torrent said there were strong indications that his team is prepared to respond.
“I’m very happy this week because their training was amazing,” the second-year coach said. “They know and I know what happened in Toronto. We are the New York City Football Club. We can lose the game but not in the way we lost in Toronto. We need to win and we have to play in the playoff. That means we have to win the next game.”
The Impact (2-2) may have a similar frame of mind following a 7-1 road loss to Sporting KC – the fourth of six consecutive road matches to begin the season.
Under former Lyon and Aston Villa manager, Rémi Garde, the Impact have elected to play all their home matches at Stade Saputo – an outdoor facility with natural grass. Due to the extreme weather north of the border, their first home match is scheduled for April 13 against Columbus Crew SC.
Montreal will be without their amulet Ignacio Piatti who will miss his second straight match with a knee injury. The Impact win 41-percent of the time when Piatti is in the lineup. That figure dips to 16-percent when he is absent.
Kickoff for this Saturday’s match in the Bronx is 1:08pm ET.