D.C. United kicked off their midseason makeover in earnest on Tuesday morning, introducing new signing Pablo Hernandez to the media after a hot, hazy training session at the RFK Stadium auxiliary fields.
“Obviously, I’m excited to be here,” said the 23-year-old Argentinean via translator. “I’m coming here planning to work hard and give everything I have for the team, hopefully get myself into the team and just sacrifice for the club. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
The left-footed striker joins D.C. on loan from Uruguayan side Defensor Sporting, but he has already spent several weeks training with United, giving the technical staff the luxury of gaining a deeper familiarity with his attributes before finalizing his acquisition. On Tuesday, general manager Dave Kasper revealed that his club’s interest in Hernandez dates back to last year.
“Curt [Onalfo] and I went to meet him in Uruguay in January, had a nice meeting – he was actually rehabbing from a fifth metatarsal break, which is a little bit lucky for us because he was really on the rise in the Uruguay first division,” said Kasper.
“There were a lot of teams in Mexico and Europe looking to make a bid to transfer for him. Being that he only played a game-and-a-half this spring worked in our favor. We brought him in, he fell in love with the city, fell in love with the club and the rest is history. Now we’re really excited about a top young prospect.”
Head coach Onalfo offered a similarly glowing review of Hernandez’s quality.
“He’s got a great left foot, he’s got the ability to score goals, got the ability to set up plays, he’s got the ability to control the rhythm of the game,” said the United boss. “He’s also good on set pieces, both from serving corners and free kicks wide but also scoring off free kicks, something that we really haven’t been a threat all year.
“So it’s just a matter of how quickly does he adapt – any time a guy comes from South America or Central America there’s an adaptation. We’re working on him in small-sided games about staying tuned in on both sides of the ball and he’s responded well. He’s been here almost a month and he’s gotten better with each day.”
Onalfo sounds eager to introduce Hernandez to the hustle and bustle of MLS match play, and the club hopes to have his transfer paperwork completed by next Thursday’s home game against Seattle Sounders FC.
That date marks the opening of the international transfer window, however, so it remains uncertain whether his documents can be processed in time for him to be a candidate for the game-day roster.
Hernandez, who says he’s comfortable leading the line or dropping in as a withdrawn striker, recognizes the pressure on his new club to make up ground after their poor start.
“I understand and know that a big team like D.C. United needs to be higher up in the standings,” he said. “So hopefully we can work through this bad run and get ourselves into the playoffs.”