Receiving a game ball in any sport is a symbol of great accomplishment and respect.
On Monday, the Union (1-1-1) presented midfielder Leo Fernandes with last Saturday’s game ball, after Fernandes registered his first MLS goal in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew.
Fernandes has been the talk of the team in this early season after registering a game-winning assist two weekends ago in a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution and getting his first league goal this past weekend.
He’s embracing the attention.
“It’s something new to me [the attention],” said Fernandes. “I didn’t think it would come so soon because I was just doing the things I thought I needed to do to help out the team. I wasn’t playing outside of myself in games, I was just playing my hardest and hoping that would translate into success.”
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As a rookie last season, Fernandes registered no goals or assists and just one shot on goal in 281 minutes on the pitch. This year he has a goal an assist and three shots on goal in just 125 minutes.
He credits the competition level at the midfield as one of the big reasons he’s playing better this season.
“It’s an amazing feeling to play alongside the great players that we have at the midfield,” said Fernandes, who was alluding to players like Maurice Edu and Vincent Noguiera. “It helps my game tremendously because I’m constantly trying to keep up with them in order to make my game better.”
While Fernandes still has a lot of work to do to break into the starting lineup for the Union. He’s very pleased with the start he’s had and hopes it will carry into this weekend’s match against the Montreal Impact (0-3-0).
“[Getting the game ball] gives me tremendous confidence and it makes me want to go out and score even more,” said Fernandes. “I’ve been training well and working really hard and I just want to help others on this team as much as I can now. Whether it’s scoring goals or making assists, my goal is just to make everyone better and help this team as much as possible.”
Fernandes is a star in the City of Brotherly love, but he got his start at a small school, Stony Brook.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t come from a big school. I’m a very competitive person and whatever I do I want to be the best at it. Coming into preseason my goal was to be one of the best players on the team and I’ve been able to do that so far.”
Maurice Edu called up to Team USA
The Union announced today that midfielder Maurice Edu will represent the U.S. Men’s National Team in a match against Mexico next Wednesday, in Arizona.
Edu will swap jerseys Sunday following the Union’s match up with Montreal. He will return to the Union after the match with Mexico.
“I’m very happy to be called back in to camp,” said Edu. “For different reasons, it has been a little while since I’ve been with the team. I’m excited to meet up with the group again and get back to wearing my country’s colors. The match itself will be a good one, as all the games against Mexico tend to be. I always enjoy playing them since they’re our biggest rival. This is a preparation for the summer, so it’s important that it’s approached with the right mentality.”