Since linking up with Alexander Ring and Maxi Moralez in the NYCFC midfield last season, the trio of Yangel Herrera, Ring, and Maxi have been the preferred talents in Patrick Vieira’s squad when available. Ring and Herrera are the disruptors of the team, clogging up passing lanes and winning physical challenges while Maxi is the facilitator moving forward. The three players have a good balance and understanding between them and have quickly become a dominant force for the Pigeons.
To nobody's surprise, Vieira began the 2018 campaign with his trusty midfield trio, deploying that group until Ring left the team on International duty late in March. Ebenezer Ofori stood in his place admirably, although not without some bumps along the way. During this early part of the season, we’ve seen a lot of Yangel Herrera and what he brings to this squad: a bulldog mentality to win the ball, command the midfield, and then distribute forward. All good things to have in Herrera’s position, yet he also makes some of the most head-scratching decisions with seeming regularity. Errant passes and poorly-timed tackles that usually lead to unnecessary bookings are just some of the reasons that Herrera has gained a league-wide reputation for someone who commits a lot of fouls. We’re talking about 19 fouls in the 7 games he’s played thus far in 2018, which have earned him 2 yellow cards, and comes out to a staggering 1 foul every 33 minutes of play.
That just doesn’t seem sustainable for over the long MLS season. So what are Vieira’s options?
Considering Yangel’s talent-level and the named starters thus far in 2018, what probably happens is that Vieira allows Herrera to continue to play aggressively as he does and when card accumulation inevitably comes into play he can go to his deep bench with players like Ofori or the ‘Sandstorm’, James Sands, or even the oft-forgotten Kwame Awuah — who is currently out with a knee injury — to stand in. Is this the most beneficial way moving forward though? I can’t really say since NYCFC’s ‘L’ column still remains vacant 7 games into the season and the team seems to be clicking at every junction. If Herrera’s play begins to really hurt his side and becomes more of a detriment than a benefit, there may be a decision made to get Herrera to Europe where he wants to be and let some of the other young talent collecting rust on the NYC bench prove their mettle (we really just want to see more James Sands).
For the time being though, I think that Herrera keeps his minutes as long as he’s available.