Rick Yeatts

Daniel Hernandez back and eyeing healthy season

Athletes creeping into their mid-30s often see a decline in their on-field performance and production.

But FC Dallas veteran Daniel Hernandez believes he’s hitting his stride at the ripe age of 35.

“People see your age and the number on paper,” Hernandez said. “But honestly, these last two years that I’ve been here in Dallas have been probably two of my best and most consistent years of my whole career.”

Hernandez enters his third season with FC Dallas having logged a career high 2,668 minutes in MLS play last season.

The captain also appeared regularly for the team in CONCACAF Champions League play and the US Open Cup.

“Physically I felt pretty good, even with all the demand of playing so many games,” said Hernandez. “I think that says a lot about how my body has been holding up – aside from the torn meniscus that I played with since June last season.”

Hernandez underwent surgery in the off-season to repair the torn meniscus, his second surgery in as many years on the same knee.

But according to Hernandez, the prognosis is good heading into 2012.

“I had a little swelling in my knee last week, so I am just trying to calm that down before I get into training,” said Hernandez. “Hopefully within a week to 10 days, I’ll be back 100 percent.”

The captain also recognized that the coming season will present less of a physical challenge for the team, which will be without the international travel and obligations of Champions League play.

Coach Schellas Hyndman is counting on the midfielder to play an integral role in 2012 – both on and off the field.

“Having Daniel back is huge,” said Hyndman. “Not only has he been the captain of the team, but he’s also been a leader. He holds players accountable to doing the right thing and playing well. Players trust him and know when he’s saying something to him, it’s for the betterment of the team. He’s not shy about putting people on the right track.”

Hernandez admits that his focus will be on staying healthy in the coming season

But don’t expect an over-cautious approach from the 35-year-old American.

“Obviously at this age, you just never know – you kind of have to take it year-by-year,” said Hernandez. “But this year I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be able to play as much as coach needs me.”

International help on the way

The club is still awaiting the arrival of their two international signings this offseason – Panamanian striker Blas Pérez and Colombian defender Hernán Pertúz.

Hyndman revealed that Peréz is set to join the team on Jan. 26 following Panama's international friendly against the United States in Panama City.

“Our message to him was, instead of him coming up here, and then going back to play against the US, just stay there,” said Hyndman. “He’ll play against the US, and immediately we got him a ticket coming here right after that game.”

The arrival of Pertúz is much closer.

“He’s got his appointment with the embassy setup,” said Hyndman on Thursday. “Once he gets through that, then he’ll be coming up here. I think the reality is, he’ll be here early next week.”