FRISCO, Tex. — When watching the LA Galaxy U-17s, you’ll see plenty of dynamic attacking play and commitment around the pitch, but you’ll hear the voice of Kobe Hernandez-Foster. Still just 16 years old, the L.A. native and captain of the Galaxy U-17s is hard to miss, leading both by voice and example for a Galaxy team that navigated their way through the 2019 Generation adidas Cup Champions Division group stage before falling in a last-second heartbreaker to West Ham in a hotly-contested quarterfinal.
"Little mistakes can punish you and change the game,” Hernandez-Foster told MLSsoccer.com after the Galaxy’s 4-3 comeback win over New York Red Bulls in Sunday’s consolation match. "We were unlucky vs. West Ham at the end and other games, it was the same. The level here [at GA Cup] is so high, if you give teams a chance to score they’ll punish us and it changes the whole game, making us climb a mountain we don’t want to climb.”
Spoken like a captain, Hernandez-Foster is the brightest prospect on another hyper-talented Galaxy academy squad. Originally an attacker, the Californian is in year two of his transition to defense, possessing the versatility to line up across the line, but perhaps most comfortable on the left. He has all the characteristics of a modern full back, with the ability to fly up and down the wing.
"It’s going good,” Hernandez-Foster said of his transition to defense. "When I get into attack my team tries to find me as much as possible and I try to create something for the team to get a goal. Then when it’s time to defend, I just put my life on the line and do what’s best for the team.”
That attitude has seen the Galaxy defender wear the captain’s armband for the US U-17 national team squad as well, and he was included in Raphael Wicky’s 20-man squad that will contest the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship in May.
"It’s an honor to play for your national team,” said Hernandez-Foster. "Anyone who can play for your country, it’s always an honor. We just need to do what’s best for the US to qualify to the World Cup and then we’re going there to possibly win it.”
With the tournament just two weeks away, it’s tough to think of better preparation than GA Cup.
"This [tournament] is great because the international teams are many times the same as the teams we play [at international level], so I just need to do the same things on offense and defense to help the team win."
Having seen his Galaxy academy counterpart Julian Araujo make his first career MLS start in Friday’s win over the Houston Dynamo, Hernandez-Foster will be looking to use this next international challenge to state his case for perhaps being the next young Galaxy star.
"I’m just trying to make it to the next level always,” said the 16-year-old. "I want to get to the first team if it’s possible and just keep working hard and see what comes out."