Honduran connection pacing San Jose's success

SAN JOSE, Calif. In commemoration of his first goal as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes, winger Marvin Chávez was treated to a piggyback ride by burly defender Víctor Bernárdez, a fellow Honduran international.

After Chávez’s volley helped San Jose to a 2-1 win over FC Dallas last Wednesday, the pair told two different stories regarding the humorous interlude. While Bernárdez clained spontaneity moved him, Chávez said it was one of many pre-planned skits the pair have in store.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which guy you believe. The one sure thing is that the duo’s infectious sense of whimsy has helped set the emotional tone on a team that has rocketed to the league’s best record at 13-5-4.

“He picked him up like a little rag doll, because [Chávez] doesn’t weigh much,” Quakes head coach Frank Yallop said. “I think the spirit of those two guys is great. They’re like brothers, really. And I think they’re part of the camaraderie we have in the dressing room and on the field. We’re all pleased for each other when we do well and I think it shows.”

Even in a locker room that brims with chemistry after some offseason pruning of salary and attitude, San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski acknowledged that the Hondurans stand out.

WATCH: Chávez volleys home vs former team FCD

“It’s so much fun to play with them,” Wondolowski said. “I think I’m going to get Rosetta Stone just to understand what they’re saying, because they seem like they’re having so much fun. They’re just balls of energy.”

Bernárdez, 30, and Chávez, 28, have known each other since their pre-teen days as youth players in and around La Ceiba, Hondruas, where both men were born. This is the first time they’ve played together professionally. Bernárdez joined the Quakes this winter as a free agent from Anderlecht in Belgium, while Chávez was acquired via an offseason trade from FC Dallas.

“We’re more than brothers,” Chávez said. “It’s a great relationship. To have him here with me, it really makes me feel more comfortable. I’m thankful that he’s here playing with me. We have a good thing going.”

Pairing up players of foreign nationalities in an attempt to combat homesickness is not uncommon, but in this instance, it’s also providing critical scouting. Drawing on his experience from being in MLS since 2009, Chávez gives Bernárdez his own personal breakdown of the tendencies he’s noticed in opposing forwards.

Bernárdez has taken that knowledge and proved to be a linchpin on San Jose’s backline. In 14 matches with him in the lineup, the Quakes have allowed an average of 1.00 goals per game. During an eight-match stretch in which he was recovering from a sprained knee ligament, San Jose gave up a 1.63 GAA.

“On the field, we think similarly and play well together, and off the field, it’s great to spend time with him,” Bernárdez said of his diminutive countryman. “It’s been fundamental support for me, to have him here for my first season in MLS.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.