Every previous Know Your Enemy on NYCFC has focused on one man: David Villa.
One of the great Spanish strikers of all time, Villa became a MLS legend by showing off his brutal intelligence as his body aged. Capable of playing provider or finisher, Villa specialized in grabbing the spotlight and pulling it away from teammates so they could thrive. Maxi Moralez, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Jesus Medina benefited last season as the Pigeons recovered from a mid-season swoon and fought hard to knock the Union off in the postseason.
Villa is gone… so what now?
At first, it was a one for one: Alexandru Mitrita arrived for $10 million as another jack of all trades up front. But Mitrita is more comfortable disappearing from the stage and popping up when you least expect it, so NYC went searching for someone to occupy the middle.
Enter Heber. The big Brazilian striker has been a godsend for Dome Torrent’s side, unlocking Moralez, Mitrita, and Tajouri-Shradi and allowing the Light Blues to get back on track.
Still, this is not the fully possession-focused side that Patrick Viera led at the start of 2018. They play to their park, which is a baseball diamond with some unruly grass laid over it. After knocking the ball around, look for NYC to try and find their playmakers and move vertically in a hurry, seeking Heber in the box. In fact, if you are looking for a model of what the Union hope Andrew Wooten will bring to town, it’s Heber: A striker that can both drop deep and finish in the box while providing space for someone like Marco Fabián to size up a few sighters from distance or dink balls over the back line to Ale Bedoya’s smart runs.
Get ready for a showdown against one of the teams that is looking to challenge the Union atop the Eastern Conference this season; NYC wants to show they can take down the top dog in the conference, and that’s your Philadelphia Union.