One of the bigger head scratchers for the 2015 campaign has been the recent disappearance of Moises Hernandez from the starting lineup. After having spent two seasons on loan from the club, Hernandez made his claim for the starting left back spot and ousted incumbent Jair Benitez in 2014 and the future was looking bright for the young fullback.
Hernandez possess all the right tools to be a great fullback in this league; he has great speed, a good motor to run all day up and down the left flank, height (6') and athleticism. But like many young players, he was known to be prone to the occasional rash challenge where we saw him sent off for straight reds twice in 2014 in just 17 appearances.
In 2015, it looked as if the left back position was all his again with Benitez not returning to the club and the only real cover for Hernandez was 2015 first round draft pick Otis Earle. Obviously Michel and Zach Loyd could also cover there in a pinch. What was completely surprising was seeing midfielder Ryan Hollingshead take over the left back position and Hernandez not make a league start in three months (last start was on 5/29). Since his last start, Hernandez has seen the field just three times in late cameos which has many of us wondering, what's happening with him?
I'm a stats guy, so I pulled up a quick comparison between Mo's first season and his second season.
From the look of things, there hasn't been a drastic drop off in his play from a stats perspective. Yes, there are some variations such as his clearances and interceptions between the two years, but not a whole lot here to suggest a dip in form or abilities or performance. (I should also note that defensive stats are not easy to compare, so even this metric doesn't paint a great picture.)
At this point, only Oscar Pareja knows why Hernandez hasn't been seeing any minutes, so we're just left with hypothesizing and here's what I've landed on.
Momentum - With Mo being absent for a decent stretch for the Gold Cup, it opened the door for Pareja to experiment and get Hollingshead out there. While not a world beater at left back, Hollingshead doesn't make costly mistakes like Hernandez has int he past. FC Dallas won't win games with Hollingshead at full back but they're not likely to lose any because of him either. So why mess with something that's working?
Attitude - This is my best bet. I do wonder if Hernandez hasn't been participating well at practice, either by showing up late or not giving his best on the practice field or in the locker room. Obviously this is just wild speculation from me at this point, but I do recall last year that Hernandez missed a game because he accidentally stepped on a nail at home and Pareja was not thrilled about that preventable injury, which makes me wonder if Hernandez has been doing something that has not won Pareja's trust back.
Education - As much as you can learn and grow from playing meaningful minutes, one can pick up a lot from observing and just making the bench. I do remember when Kellyn Acosta made several bench appearances for Schellas Hyndman before getting his first minutes and how game ready he was to make the jump from Academy to MLS. I do wonder then, if Pareja is working on letting Hernandez read and study the game and then inserting him as a late game sub to see if he can handle being a game changer. Did he observe any weaknesses of the opponent? Does he know how to exploit them?
Obviously there are plenty of holes in these theories and maybe none of them are even remotely accurate. But what do you guys think? We know Pareja isn't afraid to play the kids, so why do you think Hernandez has been banished to the bench? Will he gain the starting role again?