SAN JOSE, Calif. – What was supposed to be Jason Hernandez’s time to shine has become a moment to grieve instead for the San Jose Earthquakes defender.
With two World Cup hopefuls on the team at center back, the Quakes made sure to keep Hernandez in the fold this season to cover for potential lengthy absences on the part of Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson.
But with Bernardez and Goodson training with their respective national teams this month, Hernandez was called to the other side of the country to spend a last few days with his father. Joe Hernandez, 56, passed away May 16 following a 14-year battle with cancer.
“I was very fortunate that [Quakes general manager] John Doyle and Mark [Watson, San Jose’s coach] gave me the opportunity to fly home and be with him and my family,” Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. “It was an experience that some people don’t get to have, so I’m very fortunate to be on this team and play for guys who allow us players to [be] humans before we’re players.”
Hernandez missed the Quakes’ last two games while on the East Coast. Without Bernardez and Goodson, San Jose started reserve Ty Harden and usual left back Jordan Stewart at the center of a defense which allowed only Obafemi Martins’ wonder goal during a 1-0 loss in Seattle and a 3-0 home romp against Houston.
Hernandez, who has not played since the season opener due to a strained left quadriceps, was training fully this week and should be available for inclusion on the Quakes’ trip to FC Dallas on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
“It’s difficult,” Hernandez said of getting back into a soccer mindset. “It’s really something I can’t explain. I know my family at home is 100 percent behind me getting back to doing what I love and to making them proud and making my dad proud. ...
"Some days, you kind of feel a little detached, that you’re kind of not 100 percent present. But some days, you feel like you can throw yourself into your work, and be here and throw everything behind it. I’ve had more days where I’ve been able to be here and grind and really embrace being back here on the field.”
The Quakes had been aiming to make sure that Hernandez was fully recovered from his thigh injury for this stretch of games, but with Goodson becoming a surprise cut from the US World Cup squad and Harden providing solid performances, the expected need for Hernandez has suddenly become less acute.
Regardless of his playing status, Hernandez’s teammates welcomed him back to the fold with open arms. The club wore black armbands in Joe Hernandez’s honor during the match at Seattle, just a day after his death.
“In my experience dealing with somebody having something traumatic in their life, you can’t say anything that’s going to make them feel better,” Quakes forward Alan Gordon told MLSsoccer.com. “We all love Jason. He’s a great guy. I just told him I support him and I love him: ‘I’ll be here for anything you need.’”