Hardworking Hernandez hits 200th career appearance

If Jason Hernandez doesn’t watch out, he’ll be an A-lister, Hollywood-style, by the time the 2018 World Cup in Russia rolls around.

The well-liked Hernandez, who played in his landmark 200 career match in the California Clasico, has been making the TV rounds as a Bay Area soccer guru during the World Cup in Brazil.

“I’ve done Comcast. I also did ABC, and I did Channel 5 last night,” the Quakes defender said of his face time.  “I’ve been all over … I need to get my name out there and strike while the iron is hot.”

Scorching hot, it turns out.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Hernandez added. “I kind of lucked out. I have a bit of a monopoly in the San Francisco market, being that I’m one of the few guys that lives up here (in the city). … Obviously, the World Cup being something that everyone’s latching onto right now, creating a lot of buzz.”

In his day job, things have been picking up as well.  Hernandez, who had been out for 3 and a half months with a strained left quadriceps, returned to MLS action in a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy, a game played in front of a sellout crowd of 50,006 at Stanford Stadium on June 28. He played 90 typically hearty minutes and created one of the team’s best chances off a missed clearance by the Galaxy, sending a cross to Steven Lenhart, whose attempt was just off the mark.

Previously, Hernandez shook off the rust playing in the Quakes' 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the Sacramento Republic FC on June 11.

He only found out he would be starting 20 minutes before the match against the Galaxy, as a late fill-in for the injured Clarence Goodson.

“He did what he always does in terms of battling hard and giving everything he has,” coach Mark Watson said of Hernandez. “I thought Jason played extremely well." 

It’s been a year of serious highs and lows for Hernandez, the quintessential team player. He lost his father, Joe, on May 16, following a 14-year battle with cancer. Then Jason got married to Kaley on Father’s Day, June 15.

“When I’m looking back at this season, I’ll really remember the emotional and mental roller coaster that it’s been, just dealing with injuries and things off the field, as far as my father being ill and passing, but also getting married and being able to come back,” said Hernandez, who considered his dad "his idol" and the one who instilled his work ethic.

All of which made the Clasico even more special for Hernandez, the last remaining player from the Quakes' 2008 expansion season.

“There was a time where I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do that again, with Victor (Bernardez) being such a mainstay and us acquiring Goodson last year. I didn’t know how long I’d still be around,” Hernandez said. “So to even get another one of those under my belt in front of the fans … There’s just a lot of very memorable things that have happened this year, not only bad but also good. For me, personally, it definitely will be one to remember, and one that I’m growing from at this moment.”

Hernandez says he’s suffering no ill-effects from his injury, which he described as the worst muscle injury of his 10-year career. Landmark events such as his 200 career game are nice, but he has a lot more left in the tank.

“It’s something I’ll process when all is said and done,” he said. “I have a lot of games left to play. ‘200’ is a cool number, but I never turned pro and thought in the back of my head  ‘200 games would be kind of cool.’ No one ever thinks of that, so my focus is on trying to get better every day and get some wins for the organization. The club deserves it. However long that I’m in a Quakes uniform, that’s going to be my focus, always.”

The Quakes will face Hernandez’s former club, Chivas USA, on July 2 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Hernandez made 50 appearances with Chivas USA from 2006-07. Hernandez began his career with the Metro Stars and Chivas USA, before spending his last seven seasons with San Jose.

As far as the World Cup goes, Hernandez seems like an ideal spokesman. The former Seton Hall star, who speaks Spanish, can feel the wave of soccer enthusiasm growing, especially among the country’s plugged-in youth.

“A huge part of it is the generation that now is following the game and engaged in the game, this is the Twitter and the Facebook and the social media. The younger generation can really feel a part of it and enjoy the experience of the World Cup,” he said. “I think they’re kind of the driving force behind what’s going on.

"Another aspect is, you look at the players on the field for us getting a ton of minutes, those are MLS guys. Those are guys you can see in your local city. You can see Kyle Beckerman. You can see Michael Bradley. For  the first time in a long time, the best players out there playing are playing in MLS. That’s going to go a long way to possibly sustaining that positivity and adding a bit of that intrigue going forward.”

When they finally pack up the balls in Brazil, it will be up to guys like Hernandez to keep the momentum going with hard work on the field and an indomitable spirit off the field.

- Richter Media

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