TORONTO – Daniel Hernandez is hoping the fourth time is the charm.
The veteran midfielder has plenty of history in MLS Cup, but he's also winless in all three career appearances in the big game. That’s something that’s not lost on him as he gets another shot on Sunday.
“Why we talking about the past?” he joked on Friday, looking mildly pained when asked about his experiences in the big game. “Obviously, I’ve been fortunate enough to play in MLS Cups. Unfortunately, I haven’t won one yet.”
[inline_node:323550]During two stints with the New England Revolution, the Texas native appeared in MLS Cup in 2002, 2005 and 2006, falling every time in painful circumstances.
In ’02, it was a golden goal by Carlos Ruiz that gave the LA Galaxy the trophy. Three years later, it was another overtime strike by Los Angeles, this one courtesy of Pando Ramírez, that left Hernandez and New England empty-handed. A year later, the Revs lost on penalty kicks to the Houston Dynamo.
This time around, however, Hernandez says something feels different – it feels right. The FCD skipper says the planets are aligned to give him the greatest victory in his 13-year professional career. After stints in LA, Tampa Bay, New York, New England and the Mexican Primera División, he has ultimately arrived at FC Dallas, the team he says he’s been angling to join for years.
He’s also back in the town in which he played his college soccer from 1994 to 1997, and for his old SMU coach, Schellas Hyndman. And, he adds, he’s surrounded by perhaps the best locker room of his entire career.
“I feel like we’re a family,” he said, “so this year’s [Cup] is that much more special to me and I hope we can end it off on a good note and lift that trophy come Sunday.”
[inline_node:323177]Hernandez has a lot of support from his own locker room as well – interestingly from two teammates that got the better of him in those previous MLS Cup failures. Kevin Hartman was the backstop on both of those Galaxy teams that beat Hernandez’s Revs, and center back Ugo Ihemelu was also with LA in 2005.
“The fact that he’s been to so many [Cups] speaks to his leadership and how much of a personality he is in the locker rooms,” Hartman told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday.
Ihemelu, who also played for Hyndman at SMU from 2001 to 2004, says he and Hartman give Hernandez plenty of stick for besting him in ’05. But he adds that FCD need to win on Sunday to make their inspiration captain’s career complete.
“He’s been the glue this year in getting us towards our goal, which is here [in Toronto],” Ihemelu said on Saturday. “To get him a championship, I think he deserves it more than anyone else on this field.”