Carlos Hernandez is a hopeful contestant in the annual MLS Sueño competition.
Robert Casner/

Sueño participant Hernandez full of flair

CHICAGO - When Sueño MLS began on Saturday, many participants arrived between 8 am and 9 am ET. Some even arrived after the event began. But not Carlos Hernandez.

Hernandez arrived at 3:30 am ET on Saturday, driving from Elgin, Ill., to Chicago in darkness. The 18-year-old striker was the first participant at Calumet Park by several hours – he wasn’t taking his chances with car problems or anything of the sort.

“I left around 1:30 in the morning and it took me nearly two-and-a-half hours,” Hernandez told on Sunday morning after making the first cut. “The trip is long but I had to get here early, be careful and be ready for anything that could happen.”

WATCH: Sueño 2011: Chicago weekend

The charismatic player also traveled alone, but then again, doing it his way is nothing new.

Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Hernandez taught himself the game of soccer by playing on the streets of his neighborhood. Neither his brother nor father played the beautiful game, but for Hernandez, the soccer was all he did – and all he needed.

“The truth is [playing soccer] is my life,” said Hernandez. “It’s all I want to do. I didn’t even go to work this weekend but came here to find my dream.”

Hernandez came to the United States five years ago with his family out of “necessity and to find work,” he says. His day job consists of cutting metal in 10-hour shifts. But on Saturday, Hernandez was working hard on the soccer field.

He impressed coaches with his ability to score goals, which he netted four of during full-sided games. It was enough to warrant a call-back, said Chicago Fire player development coordinator Mark Spooner.

“He’s quick and he’s athletic,” said Spooner. “He scored some goals and then he makes us aware of his goals with a nice somersault at the end of it, so he definitely stands out. I like the fact that he’s passionate about what he does.”

And passion comes in bunches for Hernandez. After celebrating a goal with a somersault, he points to the sky and then claps his hands in exuberance.

“I don’t know why I do it, but it’s an expression of emotion that I feel,” admitted Hernandez in between full-sided games on Sunday.

Hernandez, whose favorite players are Brazilians Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, also likes to add excitement to his passing game using a number of back-heel and no-look passes.

All of his passion and enthusiasm for the game stems from his learning of the game on the streets in Mexico and even though his family didn’t travel to watch him pursue his dream in Chicago, Hernandez’s parents would be very proud if he won the competition.

“They are very happy for this opportunity that I have," he said. "I want them to be proud of me and because of that, I have the feelings to do this.”

Find out if Carlos makes it to the finals. Tune in to Univision's "Republica Deportiva" this Sunday, April 24, at 11 am ET.