NEW YORK — The plan for Yangel Herrera was a shift of 50-70 minutes in his first start since sustaining a severe ankle injury May 25 against the Houston Dynamo – an injury accompanied by the premature announcement that his season was over.
Instead, the Venezuelan international played the full 90 minutes in Sunday’s 3-1 win to close out the regular season versus the Philadelphia Union and help NYCFC clinch a home-field advantage in the opening round of the MLS Playoffs – a rematch against the Union on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
“He told me at halftime that he feels good,” head coach Dome Torrent said of Herrera. “I say to him, ‘You decide when you finish to play today.’ He decided to play 90 minutes because he told me, ‘I’m feeling very good.’”
David Villa, who tallied his 14th goal of the season in the victory, has been impressed with Herrera’s mentality.
“Another guy might be thinking, ‘I broke my ankle. I’m 20 years old. I’ll see you next year,’ the NYCFC captain said. “When the people said probably he won’t play, he was focusing and saying, ‘I will play. I want to play.’ He worked a lot in the shadows and we say thank you to him.”
For City, it was just the second win in the last 10 matches. Consequently, the return of Herrera appears vital – and timely.
“He’s a really, really important player for us,” Villa said. “He’s one of the best players, not only on our team he’s one of the best players in the league without a doubt in his position.”
Johnson saves penalty after gaffe
New York City had a comfortable 3-1 lead with a half hour remaining when goalkeeper Sean Johnson arrived late to foul Union striker C.J. Sapong in the penalty area. Video replays confirmed the contact on Sapong, while also providing evidence that NYCFC midfielder Alex Ring was secure in his coverage of Sapong.
Johnson made up for the judgement error during Fafa Picault’s ensuing penalty kick. Picault was 3-for-3 on the season for PKs when he stepped up to the spot, but his low, right-footed drive was saved by the nine-year MLS veteran.
“It’s a reaction once I picked my side,” Johnson said after extending to his right for his second penalty save in three attempts this season. “I think he hit a decent penalty, and I got a decent read on it. It was an important moment of the match. It gave us a boost, I thought.”