FRISCO, Texas — Before first-half stoppage time in FC Dallas’ 1-0 win over Toronto, referee Yader Reyes blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. It was a positive moment for Dallas, but also a confusing one: With 2010 MVP David Ferreira out for months with a broken ankle, no one was quite sure who was going to take the penalty.
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Normally Ferreira would get the call, but this time the chance was going to Fabián Castillo - until captain Daniel Hernandez saw his head coach saying otherwise.
“Fabián asked to take it and I was going to let him,” Hernandez told reporters from his locker after the game. “Then I looked over at coach and he told me to take it. He must have been watching me throughout the week. I have been trying to practice on them actually since David went out.”
And after several minutes of delay while Toronto coaches argued the call, the former SMU star stood over the ball and lined a low shot to the right of a diving left Stefan Frei.
For Hernandez, it marked his first goal since 2002 when he played with the New England Revolution. He tallied a goal against the Chicago Fire in the quarterfinal round during the Revolution’s run to the MLS Cup final. Hernandez enjoyed the moment after the game as media surrounded to talk with the 15-year veteran.
“Now you all want to talk to me after I score a goal,” he joked. "That’s how it’s been since 2002 since I had an interview."
While it’s been nine years since Hernandez last scored in MLS, it’s been much longer since his last penalty kick.
“Probably in 1997 at SMU,” he guessed
For a player who hasn’t scored a goal since 2002, his goal celebration was muted - but that’s Hernandez’ style.
“The most important thing is getting the three points,” the veteran d-mid explained. “I’ve never been a big celebrator on scoring goals when I do score them.”
When asked about the penalty, head coach Schellas Hyndman sent a reminder about how far back his relationship goes with Hernandez.
“He played for me at SMU," explained the coach. "He took all the penalty kicks so [I have] a lot of confidence in him."
Hyndman mentioned that the time delay between the call and the actual penalty could toy with a player’s heads, and the longer that they think about it the more the pressure builds but, “Daniel did a very good job with it.”
Added Hernandez, “This is my first professional penalty kick, but I felt like I needed to practice them. Nobody else was doing them so I guess [Hyndman] said, ‘That guy’s over there practicing all week so we’ll give him a try.' I think at this point anybody needs to step up and make a difference, and I’m trying to do everything I can whether its on the field, just leading by example, or stepping up and taking a penalty kick.”