While David Estrada’s hat trick made all the headlines in Saturday’s 3-1 win for the Sounders FC, Alvaro Fernandez played perhaps his best game in a Sounders uniform.
The 26-year-old Uruguayan midfielder assisted on two of Estrada’s goals while also setting him up for the third without getting credit for the assist.
As has become customary within the club, Fernandez was not leaping to the front of the line to take credit, but rather spreading the praise to his teammates – in this case, Estrada.
“All the credit goes to David,” Fernandez said. “The hardest thing to do in soccer is score a goal and he scored three in one night. He had an absolutely fantastic night and he gets all the credit.”
Maybe the most surprising element of the night – even with the unlikely fairy tale of Estrada’s hat trick – was that it was the first assist since September 4, 2010 for Fernandez. The playmaking left wing had gone 2,118 minutes of MLS action without registering an assist.
In that time, he’s added ten goals, but had not been able to set up his teammates for goals in an MLS match.
“I’m not really surprised. Sometimes I had a pass that could have been a goal, but the goal wasn’t scored,” he said. “It has everything to do with the circumstances of the game. The plays were there and we were making the plays and I’m not concerned with the stats as long as I’m contributing to a win.”
Midfield-mate Brad Evans echoed those sentiments – that Fernandez contributes in ways that aren’t always indicated in the post-game stats. However, the end-result has been consistent.
“We were successful last year with him in the lineup. He draws defenders each time and when he plays the ball it’s so quick and his movement is so quick,” Evans said. “Each year brings new things, so maybe this year he gets ten assists.”
In his first two seasons in Seattle, he has contributed to several wins. He has played in a total of 63 matches across all competitions, starting 43 times. In that time, he’s tallied 14 goals and eight assists.
Already in 2012, he has increased his statistical contributions.
In three matches, he has a goal and two assists in 233 minutes of MLS and Champions League action.
“It’s good to see him get assists and one of the things we talked about was we wanted to see him get more assists,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s shown his ability to get on the end and score some goals and I think that will come as well. I think him getting assists is important to our team’s success and I thought he did a good job.”
Even within the three matches he’s shown variations in how he can contribute, as well as an ability to bounce back.
After falling 6-1 to Santos Laguna in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal, Fernandez came back with a vengeance against Toronto with just two days between games. And his teammates could see the passion to right the wrong in Mexico.
“He wanted to prove that what happened against Santos was a fluke and he came out on fire,” Evans said. “He played physical. He was creative. His vision was on. His passing was good. His work ethic was great. It was definitely a bright spot for us.”
After the match against Toronto, Fernandez had a good sense of humor about his long run without an assist.
“Now that I know I have more assists than last year, I don’t know what I’m going to do until November,” he laughed.
He will look to continue his success on Friday night when the Sounders meet the Houston Dynamo at CenturyLink Field in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports. Kickoff is set for 7 pm and the radio broadcast will be on 97.3 KIRO FM.