Sporting Kansas City announced Friday that the club has signed 21-year-old Felipe Hernandez, who becomes the 12th Homegrown Player in team history.

Hernandez is the first-ever Sporting player to progress from an Academy Affiliate club to the Sporting KC Academy to the Swope Park Rangers before signing with the senior team. His acquisition comes on the heels of a breakout season in the USL Championship, where Hernandez has started 22 of 23 appearances, scored a team-best eight goals and recorded three assists.

Hernandez joined Sporting Manager Peter Vermes for a press conference at Pinnacle on Tuesday, where the duo spoke to media about the announcement. Full comments from the presser can be found below.

Sporting Midfielder Felipe Hernandez

On his mindset as a player hoping to earn an MLS contract with Sporting KC…

Just to keep working hard every day, whether you’re training with Swope or with the first team. I didn’t really know about Sporting much until I started playing with the affiliate (Sporting Nashville Heroes). Once I moved to the Academy (in 2014), I started seeing the pathway. Seeing that whole pathway got me thinking about the process and what I could do here. I knew that if I just kept working hard, good things would happen.

On how he acquired his hard work ethic…

They taught us the core values of the club in the Academy, so I always wanted to work hard and do whatever it took to make the next step.

On his progression from the Academy to the Rangers to the first team…

I just tried to take my opportunity when the time came. I’ve been playing in the same system as the first team, both with the Academy and with the Rangers. It’s been natural going from the Academy to Swope to the first team, just because I’ve been so used to the system.

Sporting Manager Peter Vermes

On Hernandez’s work ethic and perseverance…

Felipe comes from our Academy Affiliate program, joins the Sporting KC Academy, gets a chance with the Swope Park Rangers and then comes to the first team. It’s not easy for any young kid to leave home, come here and stay here. He also then signed with the Swope Park Rangers, whereas one of the difficulties in the professional pathway is that there are a lot of players who only want to sign an MLS Homegrown contract.

In any job, at some point in your vocation to get to where you want to be, you have to bet on yourself. No paths are alike. You have to be willing to work for what you get. I don’t know anything of value that doesn’t take hard work to obtain. It’s one of the reasons why I’m very proud of Felipe.

He’s worked really, really hard to get here, but that’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s not supposed to be easy, because if it was, everyone would do it. What I appreciate about him is that there have been a lot of kids in front of him who have signed while he has already been here. What he didn’t do is what a lot of young players would do: the second they’re faced with a challenge, they fold up shop and they go home. And Felipe never did that. It’s one of the reasons that he is incredibly prepared for the first team. What he didn’t do was fold up shop, and I think that’s big-time.

I’m proud of Felipe for all of that and I’m proud of the fact that we signed him because he is exactly what we want in our club. No two paths are alike, but he’s found a way to persevere and deal with all of the challenges. It’s not easy when he sees a bunch of guys in front of him sign (Homegrown) deals and he doesn’t. He’s persevered and I give him a lot of credit for that.

On what Hernandez will bring to the first team…

He already brings something that is directly in line with the DNA we like in players. He has an incredible work ethic. It’s something that is going to be refreshing for the other guys every day now that he’s with us in training. He fights for everything, and I think at times that gets lost a little bit in the team. If you have some success, people start to think they don’t have to work as hard. He brings that in all aspects on the field. He is a very humble kid, and I think these things will resonate and be something that other guys catch onto.

There’s no doubt that we’ve had a lot of challenges this year, and one of the challenges at times is there have been aspects of our game where we have forgotten that you have to compete for 90 minutes. Felipe does that, and I think people are going to see that on a regular basis.

On Hernandez’s standout performances with the Swope Park Rangers…

It’s not just been this year; it’s been during the whole time he has been with us. As he makes the step from the Academy to the Rangers and then to the first team, you can see that he brings this consistency of work ethic. Your development as a player is never done. When you think it is, that’ when you’re done. Your development never ends. He comes with that mindset all of the time.

This year with the Swope Park Rangers, he has had the presence of a player who is very sure of himself. That part goes a long way. It makes you notice him, and it makes you realize that when he’s in the game, he’s dominant for that team. Now he needs to work to bring that to the senior team, as well.