NEW YORK — Yangel Herrera had high hopes of securing a European move this summer, but the first serious injury of his career came at an untimely moment to rob him of that opportunity.
As a result, he has shifted his short-term focus elsewhere.
Herrera is currently nursing an ankle problem that he suffered in late May, but the New York City FC midfielder is feeling good about how he is recovering and believes he might be able to step back on the field again this year. NYCFC labeled the injury a season-ending one back in June after Herrera had a successful arthroscopic procedure to the correct the issue, but the Venezuelan international is not taking that timetable as gospel.
“I feel very happy about the progress that I have made with my injury day by day,” Herrera told SBI. “I’m working daily to get better and to return at the end of the season. I still haven’t gotten out on the field yet to do work, but I hope I can do it as soon as possible.”
It is not just returning to action for NYCFC that is pushing Herrera to make a speedier recovery than was initially expected. The promising youngster also badly wants to play again so that he can put forth more impressive outings and land the move to Europe that he has long desired.
Herrera, who is in the second of a two-year loan deal from Manchester City, has yet to play professionally across the pond. He stated at the end of 2017 that he wanted to try and join a team on the old continent over the winter, but a move elsewhere never materialized and the decision was made for him to stay with NYCFC.
The 20-year-old Herrera thought he might again have the chance to go to Europe this summer given that there were options on the table, but his chances went out the window when he got hurt in the early going of the May 25 road game vs. the Houston Dynamo.
“The injury came at a very inconvenient time for me,” said Herrera. “On top of happening early in the season, it came at a time when I was playing a lot of games. It’s frustrating because I had the possibility to leave during the summer transfer window, but it did not happen because of the injury.”
“It is clear that my mind is set on going to Europe at some point in the future and carving out my career there,” added Herrera. “I’m learning as much as possible while I can here and gaining maturity and experience in MLS and at this great club. A move will be welcome when the time comes, but I’m working hard for that.”
Herrera will have to continue working hard if he is to get back on the field this year. He has been running on the treadmill for “a while” now, but knows he has several more steps to take in his road to a full recovery and not exactly a whole lot of time.
Still, just getting to this point after spending part of the summer on crutches is a welcome development.
“Some days have been tougher than others,” said Herrera. “Sometimes your mind gets torn about not being on the field, but other days you are in a better mood and you want to go about doing things the right way and work to get back as soon as possible.”
NYCFC’s depth would be bolstered if Herrera can return to full health in the coming weeks, but there is no guarantee that he would step back into the starting lineup if so. Patrick Vieira was the head coach when Herrera earned his 31 league appearances over the past season-and-a-half, and the Frenchman has since departed and been replaced by Domenec Torrent.
Impressing Torrent enough in training to reclaim the defensive midfield spot in the squad will prove tougher the later in the year it gets given that the new NYCFC manager may not want to tinker with his established group. Herrera, however, is determined to do whatever it takes to end this inactive spell and get back on the field.
“It’s an injury that doesn’t have an exact timetable because it all depends on how the cartilage heals,” said Herrera. “It could be that I recover earlier than expected or it could be that I recover later than expected. It’s just an injury that you have to work with day by day and see how it progresses.
“I’m hoping to see if I can make it back to the field before the end of the season and playoffs.”