In August 2015, in front of over 18,000 screaming supporters, a midfielder with a shocking bolt of blonde hair chipped a ball left to his forward who fired a shot past the New York Cosmos keeper to even the NPSL Championship scoreline 1-1.
With that, Juan Hernandez became a cornerstone of Chattanooga Football Club on the pitch, and the face of the team for nearly a decade.
This season, “El Capitan” will be moving off the roster and onto the coaching staff, where he will take on a number of responsibilities aimed at improving both the women’s and men’s structure from the first team all the way down to the youngest level of academy play.
“Coaching was always something I knew I was going to do in the future. All my life I’ve been getting my education for that side, either directly or indirectly” said Hernandez.
“I always prepared myself for that, it was always on my mind, thankfully the club has given me the chance to do them both, to still be with soccer and to still be on an educational part of the game.”
Juan has chiseled his name throughout the Chattanooga FC history book. He holds the all-time record for assists (24), is second behind only Zeca Ferraz in games played (126), sixth in scoring (19), and is perhaps best known for a bending free kick goal that would’ve made David Beckham jealous.
Now, Hernandez will have his fingerprints on the future of the club, serving in multiple areas across the CFC ecosystem.
CFC Men's Team
Juan Hernandez has been hired by the club to serve as performance coach, where he will assist with analytics and giving players guidance to maximize their performance and recovery.
Men’s First Team Head Coach Rod Underwood said, “It is great to see players continue in the game after playing especially with the club they have played. Having Juan continue in the club is important as his play has helped the club in so many ways on and off the field through playing qualities and personal qualities.”
CFC Women's Team
Hernandez will serve in a similar function for the CFC Women's in 2023. In addition, he'll assist Head Coach Randy Douglas with the team.
"As much as he has been an ambassador for the club as a player, I believe he will be much more of an ambassador as a part of the coaching staff for CFC," said Randy Douglas, Head Coach for CFC Women. "I look forward to working with Juan and tapping into his knowledge as a player as he makes this transition into coaching."
CFC Academy & CFC Foundation
No one symbolizes the overall mission of Chattanooga Football Club more than Juan Hernandez. That is why he will continue to work with the youth of our city in two ways. Hernandez is the Senior Director for CFC Academy as well as college recruitment director. He will now add Youth Development Director duties with the CFC Foundation. Hernandez is uniquely qualified to help bridge the youth opportunities between CFC Academy and CFC Foundation.
“No one cares more about developing players the right way than Juan," said Steve Hirayama, Director of Coaching for CFC Academy.
"He‘s a rare blend of high-performance mindset while still caring about our young athletes as people first. Juan exemplifies everything about our club. He’s a mentor to not only players but to other coaches as well. We’re so fortunate to have him as part of the coaching leadership team.”
Honoring a Legend in 2023
This season, the club will honor Hernandez in multiple ways.
No player will wear #10 for the CFC Men in 2023. Juan's wife, Summer, is part of the CFC Women's team and she will wear #10 in her return to CFC. Perhaps the best news is fans will have one more opportunity to suit up for the boys in blue. The club is currently planning a special exhibition match where Juan Hernandez will put on the #10 jersey and play inside Fort Finley.
Impacted the Club Forever
“Juan stood out to me from the very first time I saw him on the field for Chattanooga FC,” said Paul Rustand, Chairman of the Board.
“His style of play and his creativity were a sight to behold and a joy to watch. Juan is truly an outstanding person, and the fact that he has chosen to be a part of our club has been a great honor for CFC.”
“I loved watching Juan as a player on the field and leading the locker room," said Davis Grizzard, Interim CEO and Board Vice-Chairman. "Growing the sport and growing leaders at CFC aligns with our mission and vision, and now we will see him continue his leadership in his new roles. I couldn’t be more excited to keep Juan in our CFC family and in Chattanooga."
In the end, what started as a lightning bolt streaking across the midfield for the boys in blue turned into a love affair with Chattanooga and the club that bears its name.
“The first thing in my mind is just thankfulness for giving me happiness,” said Hernandez.
“I love the game, but you can play the game anywhere. I never felt that way when I played the game here in Chattanooga. It's just different. It’s special, it’s personal, it’s more than just me playing. It always felt like it had a bigger meaning. That’s why I stayed as long as I did, and why my decision is the way that it is. This club, this city, and the game means more than just the game itself.”
About Chattanooga Football Club
Chattanooga Football Club was founded in 2009. The CFC Men's team competes in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), which is in the third division of professional soccer. The CFC Women's team is a summer amateur team that competes in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL). Chattanooga Football Club became the first soccer club to offer true ownership to the fans in 2019 with 3,200+ investors from Chattanooga, all 50 states, and 31 countries. CFC plays all home games in Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.