Imagine being 18 years old and signing your first contract as a professional athlete to play for your hometown team. Now imagine just two weeks later making your debut on your home pitch against one of the best teams in the world.
That‘s how Moises Hernandez’s professional soccer career began when, on Thursday, August 5, he subbed into FC Dallas’ match against 2010 UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan in the 85th minute for Jair Benitez. The rookie defender didn’t even know he would be on the bench for the game when he got to the stadium that day.
“They told everybody to come and I didn’t think I was going to suit out, so when I saw my clothes on my locker I was happy,” said Hernandez. “I went outside to call my parents and tell them I was going to suit out.”
Hernandez admitted to butterflies when his name was called, but said his desire to do right by the Development Academy that he credits with getting him onto the field out-weighed any nerves.
“I wanted to play and get some minutes in the game just to show everybody that the (FC Dallas) Youth are doing something positive for us, putting us onto the first team,” said Hernandez. “It was one of the best days of my life. I’ll never forget that day.”
Hernandez grew up just 20 miles southeast of Dallas in Seagoville, where he dreamed of playing for the then-Dallas Burn after seeing the club play at the Cotton Bowl.
“I went to their first game, and then I always wanted to be there,” said Hernandez. “I always said to myself and my family that I was going to be there one day. I just thank God that I’m here finally.”
Hernandez signed his contract with the FC Dallas first team on the same day as fellow Development Academy products Ruben Luna and Victor Ulloa. The three followed in the footsteps of Bryan Leyva, who became the first FC Dallas Juniors player to graduate to the first team when he signed his contract in September of 2009 (he made his debut on the 18-man roster in May against the LA Galaxy).
Hernandez said the transition has been made easier by his new teammates’ attitude. “The captain, all the older players, even the younger players have been welcoming us into the team, so it’s been really good.”
Much of that is due to the tone set by FCD’s captain, Daniel Hernandez, who said the whole team has tried to be supportive of the newly signed players -- made easier considering the level of promise the three have shown.
“They’ve been doing a great job, all of our young guys who came from the Juniors team,” said the older Hernandez. “I think they’re great talents and they’re going to have bright futures here.”
Moises Hernandez was only able to make his debut against Inter Milan because it was a friendly; he and Ulloa can only participate in reserve matches and friendlies until the 2011 season. Luna is the only one of the three recent signees who is eligible to play this season.
According to head coach Schellas Hyndman, the decision to play Hernandez against Inter was a product of the young player’s performance in practice and reserve games.
“He can get forward, he’s got good passing ability, he’s got a great service, he hits the ball well with his left foot and he’s got a good soccer brain,” said Hyndman, who compared Hernandez’s defensive style to two current starters in the FC Dallas defensive corps.
“You can see how much Jair Benitez gets forward. You can see Heath Pearce gets forward,” said Hyndman. “I think Moises is another one of those players who can do that.”
Those comparisons should come as a high compliment to the young player, who said his nerves returned after the final whistle in the 2-2 draw with Inter Milan.
“I was more nervous after the game to see what the coaches were going to say, whether I played well or not,” Hernandez said.
But judging from Hyndman’s post-game remarks to the media, the recent high school graduate had nothing to worry about.
“I believe in him and I believe in our youth system,” said Hyndman. “It was a great moment for him and he did well.”