Felipe Hernandez knows a thing or two about patience and perseverance.
Sporting Kansas City's freshly minted Homegrown midfielder signed his first MLS contract at the end of August, more than five years after joining the Sporting KC Academy and three years after inking his first deal with the Swope Park Rangers in the USL Championship.
The 21-year-old was nevertheless rewarded by Sporting's technical staff when he became the club's 12th Homegrown Player last month. And as fate would have it, he wouldn't have to wait nearly as long to make his debut in Major League Soccer.
In the 85th minute of Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, Hernandez replaced Gerso Fernandez for his maiden MLS appearance. In doing so, he became Sporting's eighth Homegrown Player to appear in an MLS match.
SPORTING KC HOMEGROWN PLAYERS
TO APPEAR IN MLS MATCHES
|#||Player||MLS Debut||Opponent||Age at Debut|
|1||Kevin Ellis||06/29/2013||vs. Columbus Crew SC||21 years, 364 days|
|2||Erik Palmer Brown||05/18/2014||at Chicago Fire||17 years, 21 days|
|3||Jon Kempin||08/10/2014||at Vancouver Whitecaps FC||21 years, 124 days|
|4||Daniel Salloi||04/09/2017||vs. Colorado Rapids||20 years, 264 days|
|5||Wan Kuzain||05/27/2018||vs. Columbus Crew SC||19 years, 255 days|
|6||Jaylin Lindsey||06/03/2018||vs. Minnesota United FC||18 years, 68 days|
|7||Gianluca Busio||07/28/2018||vs. FC Dallas||16 years, 61 days|
|8||Felipe Hernandez||09/07/2019||at Portland Timbers||21 years, 91 days|
Interestingly enough, Hernandez—who had seen four fellow Academy products younger than him sign MLS contracts during his time in Kansas City—had the shortest wait of any Homegrown Player between signing for Sporting and earning his MLS debut. Only eight days had elapsed between his announced addition to the senior team and his first MLS match.
Hernandez is the newest member of a Sporting squad that now includes seven Homegrown Players, tied for the fifth most among Major League Soccer's 24 clubs.
Another indication of Sporting's increased reliance on Academy products? Through the first nine seasons of the MLS Homegrown era, which began in 2008, only three Homegrown Players earned MLS playing time for Sporting. Since 2017, another five have entered that category in Daniel Salloi, Wan Kuzain, Jaylin Lindsey, Gianluca Busio and Hernandez.
Following Saturday's loss to Portland, Sporting (10-12-7, 37 points) are now six points out of playoff position heading into the final five matches of the regular season. The all-important stretch run continues Sunday when Vermes' side travels to face Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the eighth-place LA Galaxy (13-12-3, 42 points) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Kickoff is slated for 9 p.m. CT with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes, the FOX Sports app, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.