Just for kicks

Cruz Hernandez has been involved with soccer as long as he can remember. The current Pierce College women’s soccer assistant coach has a long and rich history with the sport spanning over 40 years.

“The only thing I can remember is that a soccer ball was put in front of me, probably when I was about 10 years old,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez was born in Mexico, he lived in Tijuana for the first 12 years of his life.

“I came to the United States when I was 12,” Hernandez said. “They saw me play at a park. The coach from Alemany (high school) was the one who really opened the doors for me. He said, ‘You’re an amazing player. I want you to play for Alemany.’”

Hernandez was a decorated soccer player all four years of high school.

“My main position was midfielder. My freshman year I was all-american, varsity player, CIF player,” Hernandez said. “I was actually an all-american player, varsity player, and CIF player all four years.”

Opportunities were presented to Hernandez due to his success in high school. He was sought after by many colleges, and some of the best pro clubs in the world.

“In 1976, they picked the best players in the valley and they took us to England. I actually have a letter from Club Everton,” Hernandez said. “They told me they wanted me to stay. They offered me a contract, but I was only 16. My parents said, ‘No you’re coming home.’”

After returning from England, Hernandez had multiple colleges offering him a scholarship. Ultimately, he decided to stay close to home, and attend the California State University of Northridge.

“ I had a lot of opportunities with college. UCLA, USC,  UC Davis and Northridge. There was probably about six or seven different schools,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez had an opportunity to play in the MLS for six months. However, during the time of his career, the MLS did not have enough money to function. Hernandez left and started working for the postal service.

“It was suggested for me to go to Mexico because the MLS was not going to continue,” Hernandez said. “I was offered to go to Mexico and practice with Chivas. By then I was already working for the post office, and they only offered me a one year contract. So, I decided to just stay home.”

Hernandez has been coaching soccer for 35 years and has coached multiple teams.

“I coached at Alemany High School. From there, I coached at Mission College,” Hernandez said. “That was probably five or six years ago. I coached multiple different clubs. I have always liked to get involved with the community so I coach a lot.”

Hernandez has been the assistant coach for Pierce College for three years now. Adolfo Perez, head coach of the Brahmas, values Hernandez’ leadership and passion.

“He brings veteran leadership and experience. He gives us the balance that we have here on this team. He is the calm one,” Perez said.

Hernandez and Perez’ relationship stems further back than Pierce College. Perez, who is ten years younger than Hernandez, used to watch him play when they were younger.

“I have known him for a long time. I used to watch him play, back in the day. He is a great player,” Perez said.

Desiree Raygoza is a captain of the soccer team. She said that Hernandez, at 55 years old, still has his game.

“He still plays with us during practice. He is really good. He’s still got it,” Raygoza said.

Although Hernandez played a specific role on every team he played for, his coaching role is more broad.

“He’s an all around assistant mostly,” Raygoza said. “I think what he brings to the girls is motivation. He brings positivity around us and that’s what we need.”

The Pierce College women’s soccer team is currently preparing for the playoffs. If the team goes on to win, it would not be the first time Hernandez has seen success.

“As a player, I have three championships in high school,” Hernandez said. “In 1983, that was my first successful career year. I won CIF at Alemany High School.”

Hernandez has always worked hard for his success, but he believes he was blessed with talent.

“I think I was blessed. God blessed me with a gift. I just took advantage of it,” Hernandez said.