080913_isi_hernandezmoises_sdajd071009201042 John Dorton/isiphotos.com

An American at Saprissa Embraces the Pressure

Saprissa's fans have big expectations for players—expectations FC Dallas homegrown player Moises Hernandez hopes to fill. Jon Arnold brings us that and more with his weekly CONCACAF Update.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
August 09, 2013
5:10 PM
WHEN MOISES HERNANDEZ signed a homegrown contract with Major League Soccer's FC Dallas in 2010, he probably expected to live life as a relative unknown in the suburbs, playing his home matches in front of a few thousand fans on a well-manicured grass field.

Instead, he plays in front of more than 20,000 on the FieldTurf of Estadio Saprissa, one of the toughest atmospheres in the region.

Hernandez made the trip to Central America in 2011, going on loan to Comunicaciones in Guatemala in search of more first-team games than he was getting in Dallas. He's now on loan with Saprissa, where he's preparing for his second tournament with the storied Costa Rican club.

"We’re always in the spotlight here," Hernandez told American Soccer Now by phone. "Everything we do, there are people trying to criticize you."

Dealing with that criticism, Hernandez said, has not only helped him become a better player. It has helped him become a man. But it's not only criticism that has come his way. Saprissa's fan base is demanding, but it can also show a lot of love. Any time he leaves the house to get groceries or walk around town, fans stop to wish Hernandez well and snap a photo. Like playing in hostile environments, it's the type of experience he'd be getting far less of had he stayed in Dallas.

Chances are he wouldn't have had the opportunity play in as many matches, either. Hernandez was Saprissa's regular left back in the winter tournament, and he's trying to hold off a charge by Michael Barquero to keep his spot this season. Hernandez recommends young players in his situation take a chance and see if they have an opportunity to get minutes on loan with another club.

"Going there was tough for me, the first month there in Guatemala, but you have to take chances to get where you want to be," he said. "I want to play, and I’m living my dream right now. I need to sacrifice some stuff to be where I want to be."

The sacrifice has meant eating less of his mother's cooking—though she's been in town the past few weeks—but it hasn't meant a lack of enjoyable days. Hernandez said he frequents a few of the beaches within day-tripping range. "There’s a lot of beaches here that are real nice, and it’s really relaxing over here," he said. While the beaches make up for what the road atmospheres lack, Hernandez said he's facing less-rowdy crowds on road trips than he was in Guatemala—where fans would throw items at players and occasionally shake the team's bus. That experience often shook Hernandez, both physically and mentally, but he says the most important lesson he's learned on his Central American trip is how to play in front of a crowd.

He'll be in another tough environment next month when the U.S. national team plays Costa Rica, a match that was rumored to be moved to the Saprissa but will take place in the Ticos' national stadium. Hernandez said he plans to be in attendance witnessing the return leg of the Snow Bowl, a match about which teammates like Michael Umaña, who played for the visitors in Denver, still talk about.

CONCACAF Champions League

Things went mostly as expected in the first CONCACAF Champions League matches.

Sporting Kansas City easily beat Real Estelíi in Nicaragua; Árabe Unido got the best of W Connection; and Toluca also easily dispatched its visitors from Trinidad and Tobago in a 3-1 win against Caledonia AIA. Some of the big boys flexed their muscles on the road, with América notching a 1-0 win against San Miguelito in Panama and Herediano traveling to Haiti to handle Valencia, 6-1. Home field held in the odd Group 5 with the Montreal Impact beating its MLS foes San Jose by a 1-0 score line.

In the unexpected thriller of the week, Cartaginés, the Costa Rican runners-up in the tournament because of Belize's neglected spot, went to El Salvador and had a back-and-forth match with Isidro Metapán. Man of the Match Pablo Barrantes scored the opener only to have his team score an own goal. Then, Barrantes assisted on Andres Flores' goal to put Cartaginés in front again before the break. Once more the Salvadorans drew level, but Herrera scored again in the 68th minute and completed his hat trick 11 minutes later to give his club the 4-2 win.

That leaves Tijuana vs. Firpo, a match in El Salvador that ended scoreless. Tijuana started Americans Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, and Paul Arriola, and Greg Garza entered the match late. But none of them, nor the rest of the crew, could put one past Dagoberto Portillo in an evenly matched contest that puts a bit of pressure on Xolos to win its home CCL matches.

Americans in Liga MX

  • In addition to the Champions League match, that group of Xolos also took part in a 2-1 loss to Morelia over the weekend with Garza playing the full 90, Corona starting and playing in the first half, and Castillo making way for Arriola in the 65th minute.

  • Jose Torres is building on a successful Gold Cup campaign and played nearly a full 90 for Tigres in a 2-0 defeat of Pumas.

  • Jonathan Bornstein made a rare Tigres appearance in a 0-0 draw in a Copa MX match against Cruz Azul Hidalgo. Tigres now play cross-town rival Monterrey in the 100th meeting between the two clubs.

  • Michael Orozco went the full 90 for Puebla, and DaMarcus Beasley came on in the second half of a 2-2 draw with Jaguares.

  • Also in Cup action, Sonny Guadarrama came on at the half for Necaxa in a scoreless draw with Chivas.

    Quickly taken

  • Chicharito has an injured hamstring and may miss Mexico’s August 14 friendly against Ivory Coast.

  • Two Liga MX players tested positive for clenbuterol, the same substance that many players tested positive for in the 2011 Gold Cup. It’s apparently found in meat in Mexico but these tests have brought the light the fact that only 8 players per week are tested.

  • Several rumored transfers involving Panama’s Gold Cup stars were confirmed: Defender Roberto Chen was announced as a Malaga player.

  • Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids finally inked Gaby Torres.

  • And Alberto Quintero was purchased by Grupo Pachuca and loaned to Lobos BUAP, the second division side where American Marco Vidal and Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco play. Contrary to initial reports, Quintero is likely headed to Leon rather than Pachuca after getting acclimated. Our pal David Sakata reported there was interest from the Houston Dynamo, but the club was hoping for a longer loan stint.

  • El Salvador’s domestic league got off to a thrilling start with a full slate of games. Of the five matches, four of them were draws. Only Alianza got a victory with Fito Zelaya assisting Sean Fraser on the match’s lone goal.

    Video of the Week

    Mister Donut is a chain that began in the United States, according to Wikipedia, but is now headquartered in Japan. The organization is big in El Salvador, where it's now the Águila kit sponsor. Enjoy this excellent commercial jingle from Mister Donut in the Philippines.

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