FRISCO, TX - MAY 1: Jair Benitez #5 and Daniel Hernandez #2 of FC Dallas defend against Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy during the first half of a soccer game at Pizza Hut Park on May 1, 2011 in Frisco, Texas. Benitez was injured on the play and left the field on a stretcher. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
Much like his coach Schellas Hyndman, Daniel Hernandez has typically been a slow starter with FC Dallas. While he won't admit it, Hernandez looked a bit tired and slow coming into 2011 after a long pre-season in which the captain probably played a few too many minutes in his recovery from off-season knee surgery. The entire midfield suffered early on as Hernandez and David Ferreira struggled to find form while Schellas Hyndman tinkered with who should play in the linking role between the two.
Hernandez looked unsure and uncomfortable, but after giving Eric Alexander and Jackson a shot, the third try, Andrew Jacobson, has proved to be the charm. Jacobson's, height and athleticism, paired with Hernandez's soccer IQ and hard-nosed tackling, has paid immediate dividends as FC Dallas has won three of four games with the current midfield pairing. For Hernandez, a lot of the success has been about turning a negative, the loss of David Ferreira, into a positive.
"I think for the most part I’ve felt pretty good this season from the beginning, but it’s just one of those things where we’re playing with a little desperation I guess missing your MVP," Hernandez said. "As a leader, I just want to step up and give a little bit more to kind of be an example on the field for the other guys and hope they follow your lead."
That desperation showed on Sunday as Dallas scored their biggest result of the season so far, defeating Western Conference rivals Los Angeles Galaxy, scoring an 88th minute winner after over an hour weather delay.
"Just from the beginning, I think it was just a matter of being sharp and focused in the last ten minutes. What we didn’t want to have happen was give up a goal and lose a chance even if it was a point." Hernandez said about the ten minutes left after the weather delay. "At the same time [Schellas] told us to go out there with a lot of courage and be very courageous as far as trying to go out there and put pressure on them. We got the goal that we needed and it was exactly what he asked us to do."
Hernandez, one of two FC Dallas field players to have logged every minute of the first seven games(George John), has played a vital role in the recent Dallas resurgence, clogging up the midfield while picking up his first career assist for FC Dallas in their recent 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Captain Daniel will have to be at his best again this weekend as Dallas travels to DC United facing off against his former teammate, Dax McCarty.
"He’s a great player man, obviously we miss him here, he’s doing great things there for DC," said Hernandez on McCarty. "I know they’re struggling a little bit this year, he’s wearing the captain’s band and still doing his thing. He’s definitely a handful, playing more of an attacking role for them, so he’ll definitely be a player I have to keep my eye on."
Another thing Hernandez, a die-hard Dallas Mavericks fan, has been keeping his eye on is the recent success of the Mavs. Talking to him before Wednesday's game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Hernandez will no-doubt remind his midfield partner and road roommate Avila about the Mavericks success.
"We're already messing with him today about that because he loves his Lakers. He loves Kobe Bryant, I think he's Kobe's #1 fan," Hernandez said. "He actually sleeps in Kobe's jersey. That's my roommate on the road, so I know."
With key games coming up against rivals Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, Hernandez knows that he will be counted on to lead the way, through emotion and effort, as the FC Dallas midfield gets comfortable without David Ferreira.
"You’re not always going to make the right pass. You’re not always going to play your best, but at the very least you want to put in the work and the effort and play with a lot of heart."