Age at MLS Cup: 32
Hometown: Huntington Park, CA
ALL COMPETITIONS IN 2020:
In his seventh season in Columbus and five years after the heartbreak of 2015, Hector Jimenez entered as a sub and lifted the MLS Cup trophy at MAPFRE Stadium. It was the third MLS Cup title in his career after winning a pair with the LA Galaxy early in his career and it was a culmination of all the work he did as a leader in Columbus. As Josh will explain, the versatile and dependable Jimenez was a vital to the Crew’s success. He went out on top in Columbus. Now he is off to Austin, where Josh Wolff and others who knew Hector in Columbus are intimately aware of what he brings and surely view him as an important foundational piece to building a roster and a locker room.
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“I’ve always gotten along really well with Hector because he is very meticulous and detailed. On the field and in training, I love being that way. I’m very detail oriented in the weight of the pass and those things. To me, the details really, really matter in terms of being specific about what you’re asking the players, and if you’re passing the ball the right way, like can that person receive the ball on the move? Is it to the correct foot? Is it on the ground? So that’s something Hector and I always clicked on. To me, that’s just fully understanding the game. Understanding those little details is respecting the game. It’s also respecting your teammates. You’re not giving somebody the ball just to give it to them. It’s about giving them the ball so they can do something with it. That’s just thinking ahead a little bit and it helps the flow of the game. The more guys that appreciate that, the better off the team is. All the good teams I’ve been on, that’s been a key. A key characteristic of those teams is that they take care of each other. I think part of taking care of each other is delivering a good pass and understanding why it is a good pass and what makes it a good pass. So what makes Hector so good and so dependable is that he understands all those little details. He knows how much talking and communicating means.
“He’s someone that if he’s on my side, I always feel comfortable with him, probably because we’ve played so many games together. With Hector on my side, I know the other team is going to have to score a very good goal because he’s not going to give away anything. We’ll never give up a flimsy goal because it’s going to take a hell of a goal to score from his side. I think that’s why he’s had a role on so many good teams. He’s played such a crucial role because coaches can depend on him and he’s a good leader, a good friend, and a good teammate. He works his butt off everyday without complaint. He just gets out there and works. He cares about the details and all the right things, but he doesn’t let things get under his skin. That’s exactly what I want from a teammate and a friend. He’s one of my best friends and one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.
“Hector has an emotional skillset. It’s emotional intelligence. It’s not being too high or too low. Hector is a steady guy. He always finds the good in a lot of things. I don’t know if people who have never played at this level, or if they’ve played sports and haven’t had a role like this where it’s hard to get consistent games, I can’t stress enough how hard it is to play at a high level when called upon. I’ve had some success doing it, but there were times where I wasn’t as successful because I didn’t prepare properly. As you get older, you learn you have to prepare for each game as if you will be playing because you never know what’s going to happen when you’re on the bench. I’ve been called upon in the 3rd minute and I’ve been called upon in the 93rd minute. I don’t think people understand how hard that is because if you’re starting and you know you’re going to be playing, it’s easy to get yourself up for the game. But if you’re not starting, you still need to go through the game preparations and think about what your role could be.
“That’s especially true of Hector since he can play, like, eight positions. He’s in his 11th season, so it’s probably not as hard as it used to be to prepare for eight different positions, but it can wear on you because you want to play and you’re disappointed you’re not in the lineup, but you still have to find a way to keep that edge about you and still prepare. I have so much respect for him in that way. There are 11 guys who start, but having a guy who is that dependable and can play so many positions is a very key player to your team. That’s a key character in what you’re building and there’s a reason Hector has been on so many teams that have gone to finals.
“And there’s a reason why Austin scooped him up right away. Those guys in Austin knew how important he is to the team. They knew there’s a reason he’s won three trophies. It’s so crucial to have a guy who can come off the bench like that, and when he needs to start, he could literally be a starter on other teams in the league. To me, he had one of the better MLS is Back tournaments on our team. I thought he was unbelievable in that tournament. He could be a starter on other teams, but in this case, he was asked to fill a role and he did more than enough to fill that role.
“I have a perfect example of his leadership. Take set pieces. When our assistant coach comes over to do offensive set pieces, if he slips up while saying anything, Hector will be the first guy to say no, that’s not right. Or if they ask a question to the team, Hector is always the one who knows the answer. In video meetings, Caleb could be doing it or Pablo could be doing the video session, and I will always sit next to Hector. If Caleb or Pablo ask a question, I guarantee you Hector will know the answer. He’s always so dialed in. You will never get anything past Hector. He’s always tuned in, and that’s a form of leadership right there. When he checks in, you know he’s not worried about anything outside of what’s happening on the field. When he punches his time card, you have 100% of his attention. I love surrounding myself with people like that because I can be a little more carefree at times. Even during games there are times where I am a bit of a goofball, but he’s so dialed in all the time. I love that about him.
“When he came in at MLS Cup, if you go back and look at his contribution, I think he made the exact right play almost every time he touched the ball. He’s got a hustle play down in the corner where he tracks down Svensson and blocks it and it goes of Svensson so we get a corner. I remember that moment was when I really started celebrating because it’s the 93rd minute and now we have a corner. I went into celebration mode. And there was another play in the corner where him, Milton, and Fatai had a nice little combination.
“As soon as he checked in, I knew I didn’t have to worry about his position because he’s as dependable as they come. And then he was all over the field making the right play and then connecting a pass or just taking the ball into the corner. That’s just who he is. He’s going to make the right play 95% of the time. And when he came in, I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’ I was so happy he was on the field for that moment. And of course, as soon as he comes in, he starts making contributions all over the place. That’s just who he is in a nutshell.”
[NOTE: To see a clickable list of earlier installments of this Josh Williams series or other MLS Cup related posts, please click HERE.]
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