Atlanta United’s offseason continues to heat up as the club’s roster has felt its newest addition in Venezuelan youth international José Hernández. After signing goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt and defender Franco Escobar, ATL UTD is making big strides to shore up the back line with 20-year-old Hernández the most recent defensive reinforcement. Meet Atlanta’s newest left back:
José Hernández was born in Caracas, Venezuela and remained in the country’s capital throughout his youth development at hometown club Caracas FC. Quickly excelling at the left back position, Hernández shot up the ranks of the club, making his first team debut in 2014 at just 16 years of age. Since, Hernández has made 25 appearances for Caracas FC recently helping lead them to the final of the Torneo Apertura and a sixth-place finish in the Torneo Clasura, which qualified the club for the Copa Sudamericana – one of South America’s premier international club football competitions.
Venezuelan Youth International Mainstay
Well before making his professional debut, Hernández’s caliber and clear potential caught the eye of the Venezuelan Football Federation. In 2013 at the youth international level, he helped lead the U-17 team to a second-place finish in the South American Championship, qualifying Venezuela for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup where he made two appearances. He then replicated that success and more at the U-20 level, leading the country to another World Cup qualification and its best finish in the tournament’s history at any level. Hernández made four starts in five appearances for Venezuela during their 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign in South Korea that ultimately ended in the final. The 20-year-old has yet to make an appearance for the senior team, but if recent history is any indication, it won’t be long before Hernández earns his first cap as he leads the next generation of Venezuelan soccer prospects.
While he’s a true, natural left back, Hernández offers a lot of versatility within the position possessing the ability to contribute on both ends of the pitch. On the defensive side of the ball, he’s a tough, 1v1 defender who enters challenges skillfully but with no hesitation. Describing him as fearless is an understatement – he didn’t make his professional debut at 16 because of his stature. Hernández also brings confidence and composure when on the ball, helping his team maintain possession and aiding in the attack when opportunities arise. As a well-rounded defender, the Venezuelan youth international fits perfectly in Tata Martino’s system where he demands a lot from his outside backs.
Opportunity to Develop
Hernández is not only moving to an international, diverse city with an avid fan base and world class facilities, but he also joins a team with a number of Spanish speakers and a primarily South American coaching staff. A prime environment for the youngster to develop, he’ll feel even more comfortable knowing fellow Venezuelan Josef Martinez is at his side showing him the ropes while he adjusts to his new home. The two have met before and share mutual friends through their ties with the Venezuelan Football Federation. Since Hernández’s stint with the U-20s has recently ended, perhaps the pair will soon find themselves teammates for club & country on the senior squad. In addition to Martinez and the rest of the Atlanta players, Hernández will have a bi-lingual, experienced defender in Greg Garza to learn from and help develop him into an even more dynamic, effective player in the left back position.
It may be offseason, but remember, Five Stripes don’t stop. Stay tuned to Atlanta United’s social handles for player transactions, signings and other exciting news to come!