Thrown into fire, Union midfielder Fernandes made the most out of a dream situation
Many players would be fazed by learning that they’re starting just minutes before the match.
Not Leo Fernandes.
Not when he’s had to work so hard just to be in this position.
You see, Fernandes was selected No. 62 overall in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. That means 61 players went before him.
Fernandes takes nothing for granted and he comes to training every day with the mindset that he’ll play.
Just minutes before the Philadelphia Union hosted the New England Revolution, Fernandes received word from manager John Hackworth – he would be replacing midfielder Brian Carroll because of flu-like symptoms affecting the captain.
Fernandes had an impact throughout the match and assisted on Sebastien Le Toux’s game-winning goal in the 31st minute. Fernandes played a solid all-around game and displayed the poise of a longtime veteran.
“Anytime Hack calls my name, I’m ready,” said the soft-spoken Fernandes, who played in seven matches with starts for a total of 281 minutes last season with the Union. “I think, for me, with how hard it was for me to get here, I try to be ready all the time. I was very excited when they told me I was started. I was a little bit nervous, but truthfully, I was more excited.
“I’ve been waiting for this. I think any player in this league wants to start and we’re all professionals. It was a thrill for me and I’m glad we were able to come out with the three points.”
Hackworth was aware about two hours before the match that a replacement might be needed for Carroll.
When Hackworth deemed the new starter would be Fernandes, there was a quick chat between the two.
“I told Leo, ‘You don’t have to be the best player on the field,’” Hackworth said. “All you have to do is know your role.”
Fernandes accomplished the feat in resounding fashion.
And he hopes it leads to more playing time in the matches to come.
“It was a great experience, but I’ve been preparing for it,” Fernandes said. “I’ve been working very hard and it started in the offseason. I know I’m capable of stepping in and playing well and hopefully, I showed that today. I’m very excited that the coaching staff gave me this opportunity. I’m glad I was able to have an impact on the game. It was very thrilling to have an impact and help us get these three points in our first home game. I’d also like to say that I have so much respect for Brian Carroll because he’s a great captain.
“I just wanted to come in and do my job to the best of my ability. I feel like I did well and that I still have a lot to learn.”
This much you can expect: Fernandes will come back to training and work the same way. In fact, he’ll probably work even harder.
“I think so,” Fernandes said. “It took so much hard work and dedication to get here and I want to keep proving myself. I’ll keep coming to training and doing all I can to get better. It was a great day for us as a club to get the win and I’m glad to help in the effort. For me, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing to improve."
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org