NYCFC’s Herrera Finding Confidence and Looking for Joy

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By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

imagesPURCHASE, N.Y. — Yangel Herrera will enter this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea on an impressive run.

Herrera scored in his first start for New York City FC last Saturday and is expected to be involved in Sunday’s game against visiting Atlanta United. He will leave the team afterward to join the rest of Venezuela’s team during a tumultuous period in his homeland.

“When I was in South America, the country was already going through tough times,” Herrera told EoS. “Now there’s just much more things going wrong. We always feel that the support we get every time from the Venezuelan people when we play there and we’re going to feel that support at the World Cup. We have a great responsibility to bring joy to our country when they need it.”

Protests against President Nicholás Maduro have been ongoing for more than a month with 35 people dead, according to officials and news reports. There are food shortages and hyperinflation that are leaving families hungry, unable to obtain basic and vital necessities. Maduro continues to use the military and supportive gangs to crackdown on protestors earning condemnation from eight Latin American countries, including Mexico. While Herrera, 19, is away from the situation, his family remains in La Guaira on the country’s northern coast.

“My family is there going through the situation with the country,” he said. “They feel deserted but the people are fighting for change. … I believe that all of the Venezuelans are showing strength during the country’s situation and are crying for a little change.”

His thoughtfulness and confidence are also evident on the field. He will captain the Venezuelan team in South Korea where it will compete in a group with Germany, Mexico and Vanuatu.

The header Herrera scored in NYCFC’s win against Columbus Crew was brave, Coach Patrick Vieira said, but the work he put in on the goal he assisted on was as good. Vieira said he moved him upfield, swapping him for Alexander Ring, in the first half and was aware of Herrera’s quality going forward as a No. 8.

“He’s a real interesting player and we’ve been after him for a while,” Vieira said, “We are really pleased that he’s with us, even if he’s really young and he needs to develop himself. We know that he has the quality and the talent to do well in this league and I think he showed that against Columbus. We know we’re going to lose him but he’s going to come back and we’re really glad to have him.”

City’s belief in Herrera’s abilities matching with Major League Soccer appear to be paying off. Herrera, who is with NYCFC on loan from Manchester City, is confident ahead of the U-20 World Cup, maturing and picking up lessons that he wants to carry for the rest of his career.

“This league is at a high level,” Herrera said. “I like a lot about it and I think going to this league will help me a lot for the things that I want in the future. I am certainly going to learn a lot and I already have learned a lot. I am training with more confidence and I am getting to know the better level of this league and the level of soccer in this country.”