Hector Herrera is reportedly on the way to Houston this summer. We know what Herrera’s impact will be off the field but what is Houston getting on the field? To get some insight on the Dynamo’s new signing we talked to Jeremy Beren from SB Nation’s Atletico Madrid site Into the Calderon.
Dynamo Theory (DT): Dynamo fans are quite excited at Herrera’s arrival. What was the reaction like when he arrived in Madrid and what are the thoughts of Atleti fans now that he is on the way out?
Into the Calderon (ITC): The reaction when Herrera arrived on a free transfer from Porto was muted but excited. Herrera was a box-to-box midfielder who had long excelled at a giant club in the Portuguese league and had been a mainstay for years in the Mexican national side. The hope was he would provide serious competition in midfield alongside stalwarts like Koke, Saúl, and Thomas Partey, perhaps adding another dimension with his well-rounded game. But instead, Herrera looks set to join the latter two in departing Atlético, and there are few rojiblanco fans who are surprised. Though he did have a bit-part role on last year’s LaLiga winners, many will feel disappointed that he didn’t come close to the heights he hit in Portugal.
DT: Herrera has been playing sparingly at Atletico until recently. What caused him to fall out of favor and not get many minutes and what has happened recently that has seen him in the starting eleven more often?
ITC: A lot of circumstance and some bad luck caused Herrera to fall out of favor. Injuries limited his minutes in his first season, and last year saw Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar explode, which further cut into Herrera’s potential playing time (along with COVID and some rough performances in big games). Diego Simeone has turned back to Herrera recently out of necessity (more injuries/suspensions), and HH has taken the opportunity with both hands, offering in these past few games what Atlético supporters hoped he would offer the past couple seasons. The hope here is he at least finishes the season strongly, with more minutes under his belt — he’ll be remembered fondly if he can help Atleti get into next year’s UEFA Champions League.
DT: What can you tell us about Herrera’s playing style and what he brings to a team on the pitch? What are some of his biggest strengths and weaknesses as a player?
ITC: Herrera will bring dynamism (pun not intended), consistent ball progression, and a solid passing range to the center of the park. He is not quite the tough, sturdy tackler he used to be, but he’s shown he can be defensively responsible and recover possession if the context calls for it. Also, I’m not sure whether to reasonably expect the goals he once provided at Porto (he’s scored only one for Atleti). However, the on-pitch value is plentiful if Herrera plays in a flexible system that calls for him to knit moves together with a variety of smooth passes AND doesn’t require him to track back all the way to his own penalty area.
DT: Is there anything else you would like to let Houston Dynamo fans know about Hector Herrera?
ITC: A marquee move stateside for Herrera always struck me as likely once it became clear Atleti were going to go in another direction — the proximity to home was certainly a huge factor when it came time for him to decide his next move, and the off-pitch impact he will have in the Houston market is significant. From what I’ve seen, he’s been well-liked in the Atlético dressing room, and I don’t believe he’s caused problems even though his playing time wasn’t what anyone hoped it would be. I hope Herrera’s next step is a successful one — I think he could be a superb MLS player.
We’d like to thank Jeremy for his time. A lot of Dynamo fans are probably going to be Atletico Madrid fans for the next few months so make sure you give our friends Into the Calderon a follow.