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NYCFC may lose injured Heber for the rest of the regular season

New York City FC forward Heber Araujo dos

New York City FC forward Heber Araujo dos Santos, center, celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match on July 14, 2019. Credit: AP/Steve Luciano

New York City FC already has a playoff spot secure, but its quest for the Eastern Conference’s top seed and a first-round bye became a little tougher this week.

The club could be without top scorer Héber Araujo dos Santos for the remainder of the regular season because of a quad injury, head coach Domènec Torrent said Thursday ahead of the club’s match against the New England Revolution on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.  The Brazilian limped off the field Saturday in the 21st minute of NYCFC’s 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps with a quad injury.

“Héber will miss at least three or four weeks, maybe he’s ready to play against Philadelphia, but I don’t know,” Torrent said. “At least it’s three or four weeks.”

That match against the Philadelphia Union is NYCFC’s regular-season finale on Oct. 6 and could be key in determining the conference’s top seed. Philadelphia sits atop the East with 51 points, just ahead of NYCFC’s 50, but the Union have played two more games.

Torrent said the nature of the injury will force NYCFC to be cautious with Héber’s return.

“When it’s the quadriceps it’s not easy because you have a high risk to get injured again, but it is what it is, this is soccer and sometimes it happens,” Torrent said.

Héber has been a key part of replacing the offensive production lost in NYCFC’s first season without former captain David Villa. His 14 goals are a team high and tied for fourth in MLS with LAFC’s Diego Rossi, and behind only LAFC’s Carlos Vela (27), LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez (both have 23). He’s formed a lethal striking partnership with Valentín Castellanos and scored key goals throughout the season, including a backheel flick in last month’s Hudson River Derby to lift NYCFC over the Red Bulls.

City could have reinforcements ready sooner than later, however. Winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi could be ready to work as a substitute in Wednesday’s match against Toronto following a two-month absence with an ankle injury, Torrent said, while defensive midfielder Ebenezer Ofori could see time off the bench in Saturday’s matchup with New England after missing the last four matches with a knee issue.

Notes: NYCFC will have centerback Maxime Chanot for Saturday despite his call-up to the Luxembourg national team. Chanot, Luxembourg’s captain, missed a friendly match against Northern Ireland on Thursday but will be on duty for a UEFA Euro qualifier on Tuesday against Serbia. Torrent said Chanot could be ready to return to NYCFC for next Saturday’s match with San Jose after his international duty… Right back Anton Tinnerholm signed a contract extension with NYCFC, the team announced Thursday. “I fit into the team very well and I’ve felt this is a place where I really want stay,” said Tinnerholm in a news release. “This team can achieve a lot and I really want to do something special this year and in the next few years as well.”

New York Sports