Jason Hernandez remembers all too well the feeling this time last year when New York City FC was playing for nothing but pride on the final day of the regular season.
What a difference a year makes...
“For us to be fighting for the top spot in the east and fighting for the Supporters Shield for much of the season, for me says a lot about the team and what we’ve done in the 10 months together,” the defender told us.
“For me, it’s all relative and all in perspective. I was here from Day One, I was here last year looking at the offseason because there was nothing to play for.”
Now, Hernandez knows a win against Columbus Crew SC Sunday at Yankee Stadium clinches the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, which brings with it a bye into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Hernandez has been an integral and versatile part of City’s backline. The veteran started 26 of the 30 games he’s played in this year, surpassing 2,200 minutes for a second season with NYCFC. A fixture at central defense for much of his career, Hernandez has also played outside back this year.
All the while, he remains one of the leaders of a squad that clinched a playoff berth in only its second season of existence.
NYCFC will look to bounce back from a disappointing 3-1 loss to D.C. United last weekend, but Hernandez said that’s something City has managed to do all season. Just once, early in the season, has NYCFC lost back-to-back games.
“All season we’ve done a really good job of just focusing on the next match,” Hernandez said. “There were times during the season we’d come off a disappointing result and we could have looked at the standings, the schedule, looked at all these things and all these factors. Instead of doing that, we just focused on the next match. That’s going to be important for us this week.”
Hernandez credits NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira with that mentality.
“He instilled the idea in us that of course over the marathon of a season you’re going to have days in a season where your performance isn’t great or the results aren’t what you want,” Hernandez said. “But the reality is that good clubs don’t go on losing streak and good clubs find a way to bounce back and respond and send a message with their response.”