Yangel Herrera was impressive in his first start since May 25. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Coincidence or not?
Yangel Herrera made his first start for New York City FC since May 25.
As it turned out, City won only for the second time since the middle of August as it defeated the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, in its regular-season finale at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
NYCFC is is 2-4-3 in nine matches since then.
The Venezuelan international midfielder left little doubt that he was missed in the Starting XI since suffering an ankle injury five months ago. As a holding midfielder, he certainly made an impact on the team’s stability playing alongside Alex Ring.
“He’s one of the best players not only on our team,” team captain David Villa told reporters Sunday night. “He’s one of the best players in the league. We’ve felt that way. His position, he’s really important for us. We need him, he did very good. He didn’t think ‘I broke my ankle…see you next year.’ When the people said ‘probably you won’t play,’ he was focusing and said, ‘I will play in the playoffs, I will work to play.’ He worked a lot in the shadows, and we say thank you to him. He’s a very important player for us and he did a strong job for the team.”
Herrera, a key member of the Venezuelan Under-20 side that did so well in the 2017 U-20 World Cup, felt he was in good shape.
“Thank God I’m in good form,” he said. “Today’s game showed that I’m 100 percent for the playoffs. It’s been a long journey in order to get back here well. At the beginning I thought I’d play 60-70 minutes but I felt fine on the field, and coach gave me the chance to continue on the field.”
Head coach Domenec Torrent was going to give Herrera about an hour or so on the pitch, but the more he saw the midfielder play, the more confident he felt that he could go the entire way.
It turned out to be Herrera’s first start for Torrent.
“The first idea was for him to play 60-70 minutes, but at the half, he told me he felt good,” Torrent said. “I said to him, when you are tired hand up and we change. I’m very happy for the team because he was able to play 90 minutes and that is good news for us.”
It better be. NYCFC will host Philly again Wednesday night, this time in a knockout-round match of the MLS Cup Playoffs.