Part of his role as team captain requires Daniel Hernandez to remain cool, calm and collected.
And despite the excitement of taking the first penalty kick of his 13-year MLS career and scoring his first goal in over eight years, Hernandez briefly flashed a smile, high-fived his teammates and quickly got back into position after finding the back of the net.
It turned out to be the only goal in FC Dallas’ 1-0 victory over Toronto FC Wednesday night, but it was all in a night’s work for Hernandez.
“Honestly, I don’t score many goals, we usually have somebody that takes the PK’s, but I’m just trying to do everything I can, whether it’s on the field or it’s leading by example, stepping up and taking a PK,” said Hernandez, who netted just his fifth career MLS goal in his 155th regular season game. “I don’t get too excited, as you could tell by my celebration, of goals. I’ve never been a big celebrator when I do score goals, and to me, the most important thing is we’re able to continue to get better and getting the three points.”
With 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, who would normally take the club’s penalty kicks, out for an extended period with a broken ankle, Hernandez began practicing PK’s and coach Schellas Hyndman opted to have him take the shot at the end of the first half.
“He must have been watching me throughout the week,” said Hernandez, who said he hadn’t taken a PK since his college days at SMU, where Hyndman was his coach. “Since David went out, I’ve been working on them. I’ve always taken PK’s in the past – this is my first professional PK, but I just felt like I needed to practice them. Nobody else was doing it, so I guess he said, ‘That guy’s over there practicing all week, so I guess I’ll give him a try.’”
“He played for me at SMU, where he took all the PK’s, so I had a lot of confidence in him,” said Hyndman, who joined FC Dallas from SMU in June 2008. “He’s captain of the team and there was a lot of pressure. There was a lot of time delay, a lot of things goes through players’ minds and the longer it goes, the more pressure and I thought Daniel did a very good job with it.”
Hernandez even started the play that led to the PK, delivering a cross into the box for George John, who was then taken down by Toronto defender Adrian Cann during first half stoppage time. Following a delay while Toronto’s coaching staff argued the call, Hernandez stepped up to the dot and drilled the ball low to the left side of the net as goalkeeper Stefan Frei dove the other way.
“I always just pick a side,” said Hernandez. “Obviously, with the goalies able to move early, they can guess and it’s kind of 50-50 for them, so just try to pick one side and go to it. I don’t always go to the same side, sometimes I might kick it down the middle or to the right, you never know. I just pick a side before I go kick.”
Even Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman could hardly believe it had been 14 years since Hernandez last took a competitive PK.
“I don’t believe that, but I know that he’s been practicing them,” said Hartman, who made seven saves for the shutout. “I guess it paid off in the long run, the work that he put in. I think he was probably just kicking them into an empty goal and it ended up paying off for him today.”
Talk about leading by example.