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What kind of player is Héber?

New York City FC blogger shares some insights on the newest Sounders forward.

MLS: Campeones Cup-New York City FC vs Atlas Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

If you don’t watch a ton of New York City FC games, it’s entirely possible you know very little about the Seattle Sounders’ newest player. Luckily, SB Nation has a very good New York City blog in Hudson River Blue. Site manager Oliver Strand was nice enough to answer some questions about Héber.

Broadly speaking, what kind of player are the Sounders getting in Heber?

He’s a classic poacher: He lurks in the box, hangs around the edges, looking to get on the end of a cross or pounce on a loose ball. He does some defensive duty, but he’s not going to track back to recover the ball.

Heber obviously burst onto the scene in 2019 but dropped off a bit in 2020 before suffering an ACL injury and missing an entire year. The stats suggest he came back very strong in 2022, though. How close did he seem to his 2019 form last year?

He definitely lost a step or two. After Taty Castellanos left for Girona FC, it wasn’t clear if Talles Magno or Héber was going to become the point of attack. Talles Magno earned the spot even though Héber is arguably a better goal-scorer — Talles Magno is faster, with a higher work rate, and he better suits the team’s style. That said, Héber scored some sublime goals, including the gorgeous shot he sliced past Montréal in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to give NYCFC the lead. He’s at his best when paired with a strike partner who does the dirty work, leaving him free to float around the box.

While we can probably assume he wants to start, is Heber the kind of player who will be content if he’s primarily coming off the bench?

I think so. He’s very much a team player, and is famously supportive of others in the squad – his locker room presence is unfailingly positive. I think he’s also realistic about his age and his recent record, and that he can’t always expect to start. To be honest, I think there was some disappointment in his performance level this past year, especially at the beginning of the season when we weren’t sure if we were getting a version of the 2019 Héber whose 15 goals helped fill a David Villa-sized gap in the lineup, or an older and slower Héber whose contributions might help but weren’t going to carry the team. After Taty left it became clear that he’s a role player now.

How much positional flexibility does he have?

None. He’s a No 9 or bust.

It seems like he was popular among NYCFC fans. What kind of off-field presence did he have?

Héber was adored by the NYCFC faithful – lots of warm fuzzies going back and forth between him and the stands. He’s very likable, a bit of a goofball who lives to express his joy. What’s not to love?

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