SAN JOSE -- Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez's father knew nothing about soccer when Jason was growing up, so the two learned the sport together.
"My dad was my idol," Hernandez said Thursday after practice. "He came from nothing, really, and really stayed true to himself. He worked hard to provide for himself and for his family."
Joe Hernandez, of Englewood, N.J., died peacefully May 16 surrounded by his family and friends, after battling cancer for 14 years. He was 56.
Jason Hernandez left the club before its May 17 game in Seattle, and was able to spend time with his dad before he died. The Earthquakes will travel to play FC Dallas on Saturday.
Hernandez, who is No. 5 in all-time appearances and games started in Quakes history, sees parallels in his professional soccer career and his dad's life story.
"You can look at it pretty much the same," Hernandez said. "I came from nothing. I didn't go to an MLS Combine. I wasn't in the Super Draft. I was a supplemental pick. I had to work my way up. To be with this club for the last seven years and be up there in all-time games played with some really great players, it's a testament to my father who just worked for it."
Hernandez credits coach Mark Watson and general manager John Doyle with always giving him "the green light" to do what he needed for his family, including leaving town for short stints.
"I got to spend time with my dad before he passed, and that was hugely important to me," Hernandez said. "I plan on rewarding them with everything I have every day in training and when I'm called into a match."
Watson sounds glad to have Hernandez back in the fold. In addition to his family matters, Hernandez, 30, has been out since suffering a strained left quadriceps in the Quakes' opener.
"I know he was really close to his father and it's been difficult for him," Watson said. "His dad has been struggling for a little while, but it came pretty suddenly. . . . I don't know if he's match fit yet, but it's nice to have him back. He's such a big part of this team and has been for a long time."
Hernandez, the last remaining active player from the Quakes' 2008 expansion season, described the injury as the worst of his career.
He has received a lot of support from the Earthquakes.
"I'm really thankful to the guys here and to this organization because they helped me through it," Hernandez said. "I'm back here. I feel strong and I feel present, mentally and physically. That has a lot to do with my family here, and that's the Earthquakes. I'm very fortunate."