Hernandez wants to fight for spot with FCD, US
Moises Hernandez is not Juan Agudelo.
In the last six months, the 18-year-old did not find himself starting two crucial Major League Soccer playoff games. In fact, he wasn't even allowed to play in MLS during the 2010 campaign.
He did not earn calls to two United States national team camps. He did not win a pair of caps with the senior team, scoring the game-winning goal in one match and drawing a penalty kick in the second just weeks into 2011.
But like Agudelo, Hernandez posted a pretty excellent 2010.
The left back began the year as a member of the FC Dallas Development Academy. He finished the campaign as a professional who made his FCD debut against world superpower Inter Milan. Then in December, Hernandez found himself playing in the United States' U-20 camp with a chance to be a part of the American squad that contests April's CONCACAF Championship.
It's all a little much to digest for the 6-foot, 150-pound flanker.
"I still can't believe I'm a professional," Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com by phone after successfully driving through an ice storm in Texas where he and FCD are scheduled to begin two-a-day preseason training on Wednesday.
He signed a Home Grown contract last July 30 and hopes to be a big part of the club's 2011 season. It will be a step up from 2010, during which Hernandez starred as a member of the U-18 FC Dallas Academy team while watching from the sidelines as FC Dallas reached MLS Cup.
Although league rules prevented Schellas Hyndman from trotting out his young charge in an MLS game, Dallas' manger rewarded the teenager with a five-minute appearance against Inter Milan in a midseason friendly. The match came less than a week after Hernandez affixed his signature to a contract and officially joined the pro club.
Finding himself on the 18-man game-day roster came as a surprise to the fullback.
"I didn't think I was going to play," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be on the bench. I got there and I saw my gear in the locker room. I was just happy to be on the bench, seeing from that close."
Hernandez enjoyed getting a first-hand look at his favorite player, Maicon. He tries to include some of the Brazilian's attacking, marauding flair into his game, traits that fit well with the tactics Thomas Rongen deploys on the US U-20 side.
Last month, Hernandez spent a week-and-a-half training with Rongen’s squad. It was his first call-up in a year, but he adjusted quickly to the style of play.
"We play real direct soccer, strong and direct," he said. "I can go up and down the flanks. I really like the style."
Hernandez, whose father is Guatemalan, never wavered in his decision to play for the US.
"This is the county I was born in, and I love this country," he said. "My dream was to play for the national team, whether it was the U-17s, the U-20s or the full team. It's always been my dream to play for the US."
He could get a chance during the CONCACAF Championship held, coincidentally, in Guatemala. Hernandez is competing with Greg Garza for a left back spot on Rongen's 21-man roster, but he feels confident about his chances. If he does make the squad, he expects he'll have a strong cheering section led by his relatives living in the country.
He has also received support from other avenues during the whirlwind that has been the last 365 days.
"I've gotten really mature over the past year," he said. "The Academy coaching staff helped with that a lot. They helped prepare for the next level, whether that was college or pro."
Going forward, Hernandez won't have the same safety net. But he seems to be growing up just fine.
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.