Settling in more with each passing match, Heber looks to lead New York City FC to a third consecutive victory Saturday when they host Orlando City.
Heber, a Brazilian international who signed from Croatian side HNK Rijeka after totaling 35 goals in 68 matches over the past two seasons, got off to a late start for NYCFC (2-1-5) after signing late last month. He made two substitute appearances to get acclimated before making an instant impact in his first start last Sunday with a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory over D.C. United.
The playmaker followed up that effort with an assist on Valentin Castellanos’ ninth-minute goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire. It is the third consecutive NYCFC goal Heber has been involved in, and it was the second straight match Castellanos scored.
“I think the players are feeling more comfortable and I also feel comfortable as coach,” Dome Torrent told the club’s official website. “I think the prior matches before the winning streak went well. I think we have a system that the players enjoy. We have good quality players.”
Keeper Sean Johnson has recorded back-to-back clean sheets as NYCFC carry a 238-minute shutout streak into this contest, having switched to a three-man central defense that morphs into an occasional five-man back. New York City FC is unbeaten in their last four matches (2-0-2), and while they have conceded 11 goals, Johnson has recorded four shutouts.
Orlando City (3-3-2) has alternated losses and wins in its last six games after opening the season with a pair of draws. The Lions tightened up defensively after conceding seven goals in their last three matches and grabbed a 1-0 victory last Saturday over Vancouver.
Nani continues to be one of the best newcomers in the MLS, scoring the winner on 88 minutes for his fourth goal. The one-time Manchester United winger and Portugal international has factored on eight of Orlando SC’s 12 goals, combining with Dom Dwyer to net seven.
Sacha Kljestan provided the assist on Nani’s goal, continuing a streak of Orlando City’s reserves providing either a goal and an assist in all eight matches thus far. Substitutes factored on only seven goals for the Lions last year.
“We wanted to have (Sacha) coming in from the bench because we felt if he could perhaps impact the game, whether that was deep in our half or in their half, he’s got a good football brain and he’s someone again that we’re really pleased that we have somebody like that on the football club,” coach James O’Connor told Orlando City SC’s official website.
The teams opened the season with a 2-2 draw March 2 in Orlando. Ebenezer Ofori and Alexander Ring staked NYCFC to a 2-0 lead before halftime but were pegged back on goals by Christopher Mueller and Tesho Akindele 16 minutes apart in the second half.
The Lions ended a 458-minute goal drought between the sides while snapping a four-game skid to NYCFC.
(Heber photo courtesy New York City FC official Twitter account)