Cultivating Herrera at NYCFC

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By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

imagesThe development of Yangel Herrrera continues behind the scenes.

Signed by Manchester City in January, Herrera was loaned to New York City FC for the 2017 Major League Soccer season. The latter move was not something Herrera said he knew about at first but one that he’s beginning to embrace.

“I had the chance to sign with Benfica and Porto but really, I signed for Manchester City because of all it meant.” Herrera told EoS., “The club, City Football Group and all the doors that they’re able to open for me. Starting here in the MLS would not be an abrupt jump from the Venezuelan league for me. It will allow me to be a foreigner and to live in a new country and see new things. Those memories will allow me to be better prepared for the future of my career.”

Herrera, 19, comes to MLS after being part of the Venezuela’s U-20 national team that finished third in January’s South American Championship, the country’s best performance in the competition. He signed with Manchester City from Atlético Venezuela for a fee of about $2 million spread over the length of a four-year contract. Although Herrera has appeared with the senior national team, his two caps are not enough to qualify for a British work permit. So he’s set to spend at least this year at NYCFC.

“I didn’t speak to anybody ahead of the move,” Herrera said. “This only started because of the rules the league has and from a couple of other things. I came here to New York City for teammates like David [Villa] and Andrea [Pirlo] and a good coach in Patrick [Vieira] who will make me better and I have my eyes on the future.”

Herrera is a defensive midfielder who is comfortable joining the attack and shooting from long distance. He has made each game day squad but can only count a 14-minute stint from the game against D.C. United as match experience. At the moment, he’s behind Alexander Ring for the starting defensive midfielder role but his versatility makes him a useful option off the bench. Herrera said playing and living in a new country will prepare him for the eventual move to Europe.

“I’m seeing that the game is much faster than where I was from,” he said. “You have to move the ball much faster and play as fast as possible. The technical level is better and I’m trying to learn from hard work with the coaches.”

Since Venezuela is almost certain to have a FIFA ranking outside the top 50, Herrera’s work permit will be determined by a points-based appeal system the English F.A. implemented in 2015. Points are awarded based on the value of the transfer, his wage relative to the rest of Manchester City’s squad and his status within NYCFC and Venezuela. Herrera needs to play 918 minutes for NYCFC this season and appear in 75 percent of Venezuela’s matches this year to meet some of the F.A.’s requirements. Vieira said he would give Herrera those minutes.

“We brought Yangel in because we know that he can have an important for us as a team and as a football club,” Coach Patrick Vieira said. “He was a player who we fought really hard to bring to our football club because he’s a good player and we know and I know that he will be important for us. At the same time, he needs some time to develop himself, to know the league and we’re going to give him that time.”

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

Vieira, left, said that he’s looking to improve Herrera’s “game understanding, his tactical positioning and his decision making.” Herrera said that MLS is a faster league than Venezuela, so the experience he’s looking to have here will help him prepare for the move overseas. Vieira said improvements in MLS are making it a better place for young players to develop.

“This league is competitive and when you look at the players who arrive at this league in the past two, three years then you will understand that this league is better than what people think and you have quality players,” Vieira said. “This is a league where you will have players who come and can still be a part at the international level. Players who will come here will have a chance to develop themselves and to understand the lifestyle.”

NYCFC declined to make Sporting Director Claudio Reyna available to discuss Herrera’s loan and rationale behind it. Even if Herrera earns enough points under the F.A.’s criteria, the decision to grant a work permit is subjective. Should he fail to meet the criteria, CFG will have to decide on where to plant Herrera for 2018. Another year at NYC FC is possible but it’s early. If Herrera only spends the year in the U.S., he said he will still gain from the experience of being a foreigner for the first time.

“It was very important for me to come here to MLS and make the jump from Venezuela,” Herrera said. “That will help me become better because I can learn new things that I would not have there. I am going to be prepared for the jump to Europe.”