The Seattle Sounders made waves across Major League Soccer this past offseason when they acquired Brazilian forward Héber from New York City FC. Brought in to be a complementary piece to Raúl Ruidíaz, Héber has shown that he’s capable of leading a line by himself throughout his first four years in the league.
Earning the start at the No. 9 position on Sunday with Ruidíaz sidelined due to injury, Héber took just 53 minutes to open his Sounders account in a dominant 4-0 season-opening win over the Colorado Rapids.
“It was amazing, my first game in front of the fans,” Héber said. “For the first time in a long time, I felt exactly like how I used to feel playing in Brazil. I felt goosebumps.”
Seattle had struggled scoring last season when Ruidíaz wasn't available, which is why the club sought reinforcements in the offseason. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer thanked General Manager & Chief Soccer Officer Craig Waibel for going into the market and bringing a player of Héber’s caliber into the side.
Héber was an instant success in MLS when he joined NYCFC from Croatian side Rijeka in 2019. He scored 15 goals and chipped in four assists in just 22 matches en route to earning an MLS Newcomer of the Year nominee. A torn ACL derailed much of his 2020 and ‘21 seasons, but he’s come back strong and eager to demonstrate his quality.
“That was a very solid performance,” said Schmetzer of Héber. “He is a very talented forward. He brings a little bit of possession, his movement in the box is very good.”
GOAL: Héber scores first goal in Rave Green
The 31-year-old Héber is also quickly winning over his new teammates, who know firsthand just how productive a player he can be.
“Héber does all the simple things really well,” said forward Jordan Morris, who recorded a brace himself on Sunday. “He’s a selfless player, he works for the team. And then you see his finishing ability inside the box. He just needs one chance and he’ll bury it.”
Added countryman João Paulo: “He’s a true No. 9, so I think he’s going to score a lot of goals this year for us.”
Ruidíaz is still one of the most clinical forwards in the entire league and has scored at least nine goals in each of his first five seasons in Seattle. When he’s available, the Sounders are still going to rely on their Designated Player for goals. But now with Héber in the mix, he can take some of that pressure off Ruidíaz and provide a different look in the attack.
The Sounders return to Lumen Field on Saturday for a home fixture against Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m. PT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV App | TICKETS) where Héber will look to make his mark yet again.
“It was a very good win for us, 4-0 gives a lot of confidence to the team,” Héber said. “It’s a team with a winning tradition and a winning mentality, so we should be able to improve and be thinking about titles and trophies.”
“I like Seattle, it feels like home to me, especially tonight after scoring. I feel more and more at home.”
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