Jason Hernandez came to NYCFC as an established Major League Soccer veteran center back and has played that position exclusively for much of the Club’s first two years.
But of late, Hernandez has spread his wings a bit, starting two games as a right back.
“Putting him at outside back, I know what I’ll get and I know what I’m going to miss as well at the same time,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “He’s a really smart player, really athletic. With him as an outside back I’m not expecting him to make 15 crosses in the game, but putting him there gives us a little more solidity regarding what I want to take from the game.”
Hernandez said he is also realistic about his role there, joking that he’s not going to be bombing down the line and “whipping balls in like Dani Alves” of Juventus.
“I think he has me out there because he knows I’m an honest defender, I’m going to be out there working hard and he knows he can rely on me for that,” Hernandez said. “I’m out there to do the job for the team and I’m doing what I can.”
Hernandez said he played outside back sparingly early in his career, including five games with the MetroStars in 2005 – the final three games of the regular season and two playoff games – and again with expansion San Jose in 2008.
“As a center back you kind of have to keep track of everyone so in the back of my mind I have an idea of what’s going on,” Hernandez said. “Unfortunately with the way the team has moved around during the week, with some guys picking up injuries, I haven’t had many reps there. I’m on the fly trying to get it sorted out.”
One of the keys for Hernandez, especially in a somewhat foreign position, is to keep the game simple.
“My responsibility there is to kind of move the ball quickly to the next guy,” Hernandez said. “We have a lot of talented guys, a lot of talented playmakers and guys who are good on the ball. It’s my job to get them balls so they can do that and to be reliable defensively.”
That includes Jack Harrison, who plays up the wing on the right side.
“It’s great because Jack is very much a workhorse. He covers a lot of ground, he’s got tons of energy and young legs, fresh legs really because he hasn’t played a ton of matches,” Hernandez said. “It’s great having a hard worker like that in front of me. I think we’ve only been able to play together like that two or three times so far, but we’ve had a little bit of a good chemistry so it’s been nice.”