To say José Hernández is excited to be joining Atlanta United is an understatement.
“The feeling I have here since I arrived has been amazing,” he says with a smile.
The 20-year-old had a whirlwind year in 2017. He enjoyed first-team soccer with Caracas FC in his native Venezuela, and his performances caught the eyes of his national team coach –– as well as the technical staff at Atlanta United. When he went from a substitute to a key player on the Venezuela team that went to the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup, his talents couldn’t be ignored.
“At the start of the U-20 World Cup in South Korea, Atlanta showed an interest but nothing formal,” he says, through a translator. “Later on in November and December things started to get a little more formal.”
Moving to America is a big step, but the path had already been blazed by a fellow Venezuelan who also got his start at Caracas FC, Josef Martinez.
“I talked to my countryman and friend Josef Martinez. He told me a little bit about the team, the city, what Atlanta was like, and that’s why I decided to come here. Atlanta showed a lot of interest in me. Everything happened very fast.”
While the left back’s talents are still raw at such a young age, it’s clear to see why Tata Martino saw him as a good fit in his attacking system.
“They contacted me because I know the outside backs in Tata’s system play very offensively. Caracas and Venezuela made me play pretty offensively. I think in 1-on-1 situations, finishing the play, I’m pretty good. Defending, when I have to, as well, because I know in Tata’s system sometimes we’re left 1-on-1. I think I’m going to be able to contribute when called upon.”
Atlanta United fans know full well the talent the team already has at left back, with Greg Garza’s form locking down a spot on the MLS All-Star team. But Hernández sees that competition for a starting spot as an opportunity.
“I’m glad that Greg [Garza] stayed because he’s a great player and I’m going to learn a lot from him. Now I have to fight for my position and give my all to keep growing in my career and I know I have a lot more to learn.”
Hernández is fit, firing, and chomping at the bit to impress his coaches in his first MLS season. Wherever he is on the depth chart, he’s ready to contribute to Atlanta United’s year two success.
“For me making the jump out of my country is very good. I’m really appreciative of the way the team has received me and I hope to give my best and have a great season.”
Hernández and his teammates will start their season on the road against the Houston Dynamo, with his home debut coming on March 11th against D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Make sure you’re there for the start of chapter two by getting your tickets here.