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High school soccer: Davis’ Hernandez named Utah’s Mr. Soccer

SHARE High school soccer: Davis’ Hernandez named Utah’s Mr. Soccer

For all the complexities and intricacies of soccer, the sport known as the beautiful game can arguably be most beautiful when it's kept breathtakingly simple.

Those that got to see Davis senior Josh Hernandez perform on a soccer pitch this year would know why.

There were times this spring when Hernandez, a true central midfielder, got away from playing the simple balls — usually brief moments when he'd use his immense ability to play to the crowd — but when he kept things simple, he was peerless.

And more often than not this spring, he kept things simple.

Hernandez, who's nicknamed Fez, led a terrific supporting cast to an outright Region 1 championship, and, in the eyes of the Deseret News, enjoyed the best individual season of anyone in the state this spring to become the second recipient of the Deseret News Mr. Soccer award for Utah.

"The best quote that describes Fez to me is by (soccer legend) Johann Cruyff when he said, 'Sometimes the hardest thing to do in soccer is to play simple,' said Davis coach Souli Phongsavath. "When he plays simple, it's genuinely fun to watch. You almost forget that you're a coach, and you become a fan.

"There are only a few players that I've ever coached or that I've ever seen that have made me really wanna watch and become a fan and get lost in the game, and he's one of those players."

Armed with phenomenal vision, a fantastic first touch and a small but sturdy frame, there isn't much that Hernandez can't do on a soccer pitch, something that was very apparent to Phongsavath when he took over Davis' soccer program two years ago.

"Basically," said Phongsavath, "he can do anything he wants to."

Phongsavath made it Priority No. 1 to make Hernandez the focal point of Davis' offensive attack at the start of the 2008 season, and the results over two years were spectacular.

And after turning in a stellar season at the heart of Davis' midfield as a junior, he turned in an even better one as a senior.

Hernandez was hot offensively to start the 2009 season, scoring eight goals in Davis' first six games, and the mercurial playmaker was stellar in every other aspect of his game throughout the rest of the season.

He finished with 12 goals, and while Phongsavath doesn't track assists, he estimated that Hernandez easily finished in double figures in that category.

After missing what proved to be the deciding penalty in a shootout loss to Weber in the 5A quarterfinals in 2008, Hernandez vowed to Phongsavath he would never miss another penalty for his coach.

And he backed up those words this spring as he consistently buried penalties from the spot in crucial situations.

All of which helped Davis edge Viewmont to the league title in Region 1. And though the season didn't end the way the Darts wanted it to — they lost in overtime to Hillcrest in the 5A quarterfinals — there wasn't much more Hernandez could've done, considering he tore his meniscus with 20 minutes to go in that quarterfinal game.

Add to that the fact that the Darts were without fellow star Gentrie Maag, who's dealing with a scary spinal-cord condition, for the final month of the season, and they collectively feel like they left everything they had on the pitch.

"The way that Fez played, the way he led the team and the experiences that we had, I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Phongsavath.

Hernandez echoed those sentiments.

"It's been very fun to play with all my friends," he said.

Hernandez will undergo surgery on his left knee to repair his meniscus on June 16. He's told it will take 4-6 weeks to recover from the surgery, but he's hoping to be ready to begin conditioning at Dixie State College, where he earned a soccer scholarship, in mid-August.

Even if it takes a little longer than that to heal, however, Phongsavath believes Dixie coach Danny Ortiz will be getting a special player in Hernandez this fall — and beyond.

The way Phongsavath sees things, it's been a pleasure for him to coach Hernandez at the high school level.

"When you have somebody that's as smart and as talented as he is and sees the game the way he does, you don't really need to do anything as a coach," said Phongsavath. "You just sit back and let him have the artistic freedom to do what he does, which is knock the ball around, get other people involved, switch the point of attack and be creative.

"You just sit back and watch the game be played the way it should be played when it's simple, when a five-yard ball can be breathtaking," he added. "It's just fun."

E-MAIL: drasmussen@desnews.com