SAN JOSE, Calif. — For a player who was presumed by many observers to be out of a job, Jason Hernandez is playing a pretty integral part in the San Jose Earthquakes’ late-season resurgence.
Despite the presence of US international Clarence Goodson and Honduran stalwart Victor Bernardez at center back, Hernandez keeps popping up in interim coach Mark Watson’s lineups. The 30-year-old, one of only two players to have stuck with the Quakes ever since their 2008 rebirth, has started four of San Jose’s last six matches in all competitions – with three of those contests being shutout victories.
And with Bernardez away this week trying to help Los Catrachos qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Hernandez is expected to open again alongside Goodson on Wednesday as San Jose faces a must-win league match against Colorado (10 pm ET, MLS Live), one of two teams sitting just ahead of the Quakes in the Western Conference standings.
“We show our true colors when things aren’t going perfectly for us,” Hernandez told reporters at training last week. “And I think it’s important to embrace adversity and step up ... when you’re called upon. I think I’ve been fortunate enough to do that.”
Hernandez understood the motivation behind the Quakes’ move to add Goodson in June; San Jose still held Goodson’s rights by virtue of selecting him in the club’s expansion draft a half-decade ago, and when the former FC Dallas player decided to return Stateside after six years in Scandinavia, it was something akin to found money.
“Any time you can add a player of international caliber to your team, that’s a great asset, and you never want to turn that down,” Hernandez said. “For me personally, obviously it was going to be a point to compete for minutes ... I’m pretty happy with myself, with two international guys being on this team and still being able to find ways to get in the lineup and make plays and make a difference.
"As much as it’s been difficult at times to see my minutes reduced, it’s been great for the squad and great for the team,” he concluded.
Watson was pleased but not surprised by Hernandez’s reaction.
“It’s a difficult situation, because Jason has been a great player for us,” Watson said. “He’s been here a long time, so it is tough. To his credit, though – and I don’t think I expected any different – he’s handled it like a real professional.
"I know deep down it’s tough to not be in the starting group on a game day, but he’s responded the right way, trained really well. He’s actually played a bunch of games and in every game that he’s played, he’s done really well, making a case to play.”
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Hernandez has been part of what’s ended up being a three-man rotation of sorts in the middle of San Jose’s backline. Yet even with the turnover, the Quakes defense has never looked better; if not for a missed assignment on a corner kick in a 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake, San Jose would be working on a league scoreless streak of 383 minutes.
“I’ve been able to get a shutout next to Justin [Morrow] at center back, Clarence at center back and Vic at center back in the last three games I’ve played,” Hernandez said. “So the ability that we’re beginning to have, to exchange in and out and still get results defensively, has helped us tremendously.”