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Maxi Moralez likely back for NYCFC this weekend, with Heber close to returning next week

New York City FC forward Heber (9) of

New York City FC forward Heber (9) of Brazil defends Columbus Crew midfielder Artur as midfielder Maximiliano Moralez helps on Aug. 21, 2019. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

Maxi Moralez likely will be back in the starting lineup for New York City FC when the club visits FC Dallas this weekend, head coach Dome Torrent said Thursday, and another key attacker could be rejoining the club sooner than expected for next week’s pivotal matchup with Atlanta United.

Torrent said he expects Moralez, who leads MLS in assists with 18, to play 60 minutes for NYCFC on Sunday after missing last Saturday’s win over San Jose with a hamstring injury.

“I expect about Maxi, I spoke with him yesterday, maybe he can play 60 minutes, one hour, I don’t know,” Torrent said. “But it’s very important for us to play with this player, and after that if he’s tired we can change because in two days, three days, we have another important game. But the good news for us is he’s ready to play against Dallas.”

Torrent might pull Moralez with Atlanta in mind, and he could have NYCFC’s top scorer Héber Araujo dos Santos available to participate on Wednesday as well.

Acquired this offseason to help replace David Villa, Héber is a big reason why NYCFC hasn’t missed their former captain and sits atop the Eastern Conference. The Brazilian’s 14 goals are the most in a season by a NYCFC player other than Villa despite not participating in 10 of City’s 30 matches so far this season.

Héber has missed NYCFC’s last three games after a quad injury suffered in a win at Vancouver on Aug. 31. Earlier this month, Torrent said he hoped to have Héber back for the regular-season finale against Philadelphia, but an earlier arrival would be welcome.

“Maybe against Atlanta he’s ready to play 20, 25 minutes, I don’t know, we need to have a [scan], they need test, but the important [thing] for us is Héber has to be ready for the playoffs.” Torrent said. “But maybe we have a surprise and he is able to play 20 or 25 minutes against Atlanta, why not?”

In defense, James Sands continued his rehabilitation from a broken collarbone suffered last month, working away from the rest of the team for much of Thursday’s open training session, but still doesn’t have a clear date for his return.

“He’s so close, maybe in two weeks he’s ready to play," Torrent said. "We’ll respect the time, what the doctors say, we have to respect the time because they are professionals, but he is so close.”

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