How will the return of Rodríguez and Héber benefit NYCFC

New York City FC player Héber celebrates scoring the first goal of the match at Red Bull Arena

The possible return of Rodríguez and Héber

Rodríguez goes down against New England

EDITORIAL – One of the more disappointing moments from NYCFC’s Sept. 11 loss to Eastern Conference leaders New England Revolution other than the final 2-1 scoreline was the injury to midfielder Santiago Rodríguez in the early 16-minute of the matchup at Gillette Stadium.

Listed as out with a lower-body injury by the club, Rodríguez would be unavailable for selection by head coach Ronny Delia for City’s previous two games which came against FC Dallas and FC Cincinnati.

But while his injury was announced, a timeline for Rodríguez’s return was never set despite how exciting the 21-year-old has been since his arrival on loan in the Bronx this summer, securing three goals playing as both an attacking midfielder and winger in twelve appearances prior to his hamstring issue.

The Long-awaited return of Héber

During that same timeline, NYCFC fans were treated to the return of striker Héber who hasn’t been in the squad since September 2020 when he tore his ACL in a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC. The Brazilian was on the bench for City’s 3-3 draw with FC Dallas and was given a 9-minute run out to close the game and then earned a spot on the bench again in the 2-1 win over Cincinnati. 

While his acclamation back into the squad should be slow following a serious injury, New York City will remember his fifteen goals in the 2018/19 season fondly and although not short for offensive firepower this year, it is no doubt his return has brought a lift to the NYCFC community and fans will be excited to see his continued inclusion within the squad.

 

Rodríguez set for Rivalry Week return

NYCFC’s injury report was released early Wednesday afternoon and to the surprise of many listed Rodríguez as back in contention for playing time in the upcoming Double Hudson River Derby week against New York Red Bulls with Rodríguez earning a spot on the bench but not making an appearance in the first match, a 1-1 draw on Sept. 22 before the second match which will be played on Sept. 25.

Despite Rodríguez not getting any minutes in the opening derby matchup at Red Bull Arena, fully expect to see him back in his starting position come the return fixture which will be played at Yankee Stadium and especially as City looks to finish out the season in good form and head into playoffs.

What does the return of Rodríguez and Héber bring to NYCFC:

An offense led by Taty Castellanos, Maxi Moralez, and Jesús Medina has been the strongest part of NYCFC’s squad this season while their defense has struggled more recently. However, depth is always important and the return of two offensive prowesses in Rodríguez and Héber will surely add to their already high MLS goal count of 44 total so far this season.

It’s unfortunate that Rodríguez went down when he did as the attacker was just starting to consistently work his way into Deila’s starting lineup but after missing just two games expect him to bounce back and find his way onto the field quickly.

A possible timeline for both Rodríguez and Héber to return

Realistically, I see Rodríguez working back into Deila’s starting XI within the next few games once he’s regained full fitness as the Uruguayan has been fairly productive during his loan stint and should continue to provide pace, movement, and good finishing out on the left-wing where he’s primarily featured. 

Héber is definitely in a more interesting position as his return to 100 percent will be a slow and steady one but we’ve seen the goal-scoring capabilities he possesses and know what he brings on the pitch, not just in front of goal but to the offense as a whole.

Héber could potentially make a great super subheading towards the playoffs as he starts to find his feet again and can be the guy to help carry the offense into the final 10-15 minutes of a match. 

NYCFC has several exciting young forwards coming off the bench right now. This includes summer signings like Talles Magno and Thiago Andrade, none of which have the MLS experience or the veteran leadership that Héber can bring to the squad.

It might be tough to ask much of the 30-year-old striker coming off an ACL tear. However, Delia has shown he’s willing to run Héber out there even for a few minutes at a time. So let’s see him take his opportunities and contribute to the offense going forward.

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