The New York City Football Club opened the season with four goals in the opening five matches, while failing to record a victory.
With six finishes in their subsequent three matches – including back-to-back regular season victories for the first time since last July – the sense at the training ground is that the scoring woes may have been solved.
The revival has coincided with the arrival of Brazilian forward Héber.
Acquired March 22 from Croatian top-tier club Rijeka, the striker has recorded one goal plus two assists in his last three matches – the last two as part of the starting XI.
“I am very tired,” Héber said after the 2-0 win Sunday at D.C. United – the first of three matches in seven days.
Héber also started and assisted on Taty Castellanos’ game-winner in Wednesday’s 1-0 triumph over the Chicago Fire. Can the 27-year old, who has not completed a match since December with Rijeka, be prepared for a third consecutive assignment on Saturday against Orlando City SC?
“I think the best way to start the game is with Héber,” coach Dome Torrent told Pro Soccer USA after training Friday. “He’s a smart player. When he’s tired he’ll tell me and it’s the right moment to play another player – but I want to play with him.”
Torrent would also like to play with designated player Alexandru Mitriță. However, the Romanian winger is still recovering from an ankle sprain suffered at D.C. United where he notched his second goal in MLS.
Mitriță trained with the full team Friday.
“He’s not 100 percent,” Torrent said. “He said to me he wants to play but maybe we decide for him to stay on the bench the same as we did with Ismael (Tajouri-Shradi) the last game.”
Tajouri-Shradi had a brace in the 3-3 draw at Minnesota and those tallies place him in a tie for the team lead with Mitriță and Alex Ring. He was an unused sub versus Chicago
“I think he’s ready to play against Orlando,” Torrent said.
Although Tajori-Shradi is prepared for full-time service, Torrent indicated he has options – Héber, Maxi Moralez and Tajouri-Shradi in a three-man front, or Héber, Moralez and Castellanos.
“Right now, we have good players and our forwards are in top form,” Torrent said. ”I need to decide whether to play with Ismael or Taty. It’s different because when you decide to play with Maxi and Ismael they can play between the lines – like a box. When you play with Taty you play a little different – two strikers and the No. 10 is Maxi. That’s not bad.”
No matter who Torrent chooses up top, there is certainty with the team shape. NYCFC will start their fourth consecutive match in a three-back system.
“You know we had many problems in the past and everybody is more comfortable now in the team,” Torrent said.
“Everyone is more confident and more positive – I think you can see it in our play,” Ben Sweat told Pro Soccer USA.
Sweat will start at left wing back in place of the injured Ronald Matarrita who suffered a calf injury in Wednesday’s match. The Costa Rican international will be sidelined for at least seven days.
“We’ve had two good wins,” Sweat said. “We just needed that one win. It’s a big boost for us to put together better performances and get three points every match rather than one point here and one point there.”
New York City has five draws in eight matches and on Wednesday their first victory at Yankee Stadium.
Sweat emphasized the importance of making it two straight wins in the Bronx with the Pigeons embarking on a four-match excursion after Saturday.
“It’s important to win every home game throughout the year, especially before going on a big away stretch,” Sweat said. “The home win was important for us as players but for the staff and the fans as well. Everybody has been patient and its finally paid off.”