FRISCO, Texas – When you have an opportunity to bring in a player the caliber of Julian de Guzman at a cut-rate price, it’s a chance you have to take.
However, last week's acquisition of the Canadian defensive midfielder from Toronto FC in exchange for Andrew Wiedeman brings up a major question for head coach Schellas Hyndman: What happens to Daniel Hernandez?
Having signed a three-year player/coach contract with FC Dallas in the offseason, the 36-year-old Hernandez is not accustomed to coming off the bench. In fact, since the start of the 2010 season, he has made 71 league appearances for Dallas – all of them starts.
With the arrival of de Guzman, Hernandez now has a battle on his hands to keep the starting defensive midfield role.
“Nothing’s going to change with me, but obviously it’s not a secret that he plays my position,” Hernandez told reporters last week. “You’re bringing in a DP player and you would think that you wouldn’t be wasting that on the bench, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t worry about it. I just have to keep doing what I always do.”
What Hernandez has done is play a calming, if underappreciated, defensive-midfield role for Dallas over the past three seasons; however, with the team mired in a 13-game winless streak, Hernandez found himself in an unfamiliar role as an unused substitute in the scoreless draw with San Jose on July 7.
Speculation was that Hernandez’s knee was acting up, but he says that wasn’t the case. Which means it was either a decision made due to a dip in form or because the coaching staff felt it was necessary to shake up the squad.
“Whatever decisions the coaching staff have made about me not playing, that’s all been based on performance, I guess, and their decisions," Hernandez said. "That has nothing to do with my knee.”
Hernandez was back in the starting XI this past weekend, when Dallas earned a win at Colorado. The midfielder looked close to his former self, completing 23 of 28 passes and effectively shutting down Colorado's strong central midfield.
So the battle with de Guzman looks set to rage on for a while.
For Hyndman, the trade was a lot about having to play extended stretches of games in a short amount of time, something that would certainly happen if FCD were able to sneak back into the playoff picture.
“We’ve got three games in eight days and what ends up happening is we need depth, ” Hyndman said last week. “Is Daniel Hernandez capable of going two games in three days? If he’s unable to, I think that Julian can come in and [play].”
Dallas are at San Jose on Wednesday night (11 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).