Omir Fernandez: “It was special for me to score here in front of my parents.” (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Having grown up in the Bronx, Omir Fernandez turned into a hometown hero Saturday night, although it wasn’t for the home team.
Still, he had felt right at home at Yankee Stadium, scoring the game-winning goal in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 win over New York City FC in the latest rendition of the Hudson River Derby.
After all, he grew up a subway stop or two from the venue and had friends and family at the game.
“It was special for me to score here in front of my parents,” he said. “They probably drove 10 minutes from the house, so it was something so meaningful for me to score and celebrate right in front of them.”
And a few other people as well. A friend who works for NYCFC said some friends attended the match.
“He was so excited for me,” Fernandez said. “All my friends were coming to the game. It’s a big moment. I don’t think people really understand how much it means to me how many people I know in this area and how many people actually came here to support me.
“Some of my friends haven’t gone to a game before. They’ve come to this one because they knew I was going to be a part of it. I’m happy that everything went our way for sure.”
After firing blanks on a couple of earlier opportunities, Fernandez’s big chance came in the 43rd minute. Kyle Duncan brought the ball to the end line, made a fake and passed the ball into the box to Fernandez, who scored from seven yards.
“It was like an unexpected moment for me,” Fernandez said. “I’m always in the box always trying to score whenever I can. When I saw the ball coming straight at me, I don’t know I describe it to the guys. I see everything just happen at once, like all this joy come to me.”
After the ball entered the net, the Bronx-born Fernandez said that he had “a lot of emotion, too many to process.”
“It’s like slow motion. I’m just trying to process what just happened, trying to catch my breath, trying to do my job on the field.”
It was the 5-7, 141-lb. Fernandez’s second goal of the season and six of his Red Bulls career, which has spanned 50 games.
Head coach Gerhard Struber was gratified that Fernandez has made progress during his tenure.
“He [has] made very good steps,” he said. “He was very sharp [with] the ball. … Also I think his position in the end to score the goal was also very clever. Right now, he’s very helpful for my team.”
Fernandez returned the compliment to his coach, saying that he has improved since Struber took over last November.
“For sure, I mean he’s taking my game up a level,” he said. “I have a lot of trust in him and I’m happy he has trusted me. I think maybe my ability has improved a little bit, but I think the main thing has been my confidence, to be in those positions and trust myself.”