Family life going very well for Phoenix imports

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2014
Carlos Hernandez

The Phoenix’s Costa Rican imports Carlos Hernandez (left, grey shirt) and Kenny Cunningham (far right) with their families.

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It is no coincidence that the Wellington Phoenix's Costa Rican connection started clicking after Christmas.

Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham only had each other for company at their central city apartments before their young families arrived from their homeland just in time for the festive season.

The World Cup hopefuls have scored three goals apiece in the Phoenix's last four games and their general play has also gone to another level since the arrival of their loved ones.

"For the players, the support from family is important," Hernandez said ahead of tomorrow's visit to the Jets in Newcastle, which Cunningham will miss through suspension.

"My kids, my wife and my mum is here too. It's important for me to have good support and it benefits myself. If I'm very happy, I play very good football and hopefully I kick on. Last week was much better (a 2-1 win over Adelaide United) and the team played much better."

Hernandez's mother Yamilet is in Wellington for the remainder of the season and the playmaker jokes he now has "two cooks."

"My wife (Natalia) and my mum so it's very good, you know. Before, when you come home tired, and 'oh no, I'm cooking now.' But now I'm happy because the food is there. I'm very happy, enjoying Wellington, and very happy with the boys and the club."

So happy that last month he penned an extension to his contract, keeping him in Wellington through to 2014-15.

Hernandez has already won one A-League title with Ernie Merrick, with the Melbourne Victory in 2008-09.

And while the in-form Phoenix sit a lowly eighth with 10 regular season games remaining, he doesn't think it's beyond their capabilities to push for silverware.

"My focus is for a championship," Hernandez said.

"During the first 10 games the team played good but no wins, only draw, loss, draw, loss. But it was important that the team didn't go crazy. Everyone stayed calm and focused for the first win and now the team is very confident and playing very good football."

The duo are both incredibly grateful to Merrick for releasing them for Costa Rica's friendlies against Chile (4-0 loss) and South Korea (1-0 loss) last month.

Despite the results, both players felt they performed well and are hopeful of selection for the World Cup in Brazil in June-July.

Hernandez, 31, played at the 2006 World Cup in Germany but Cunningham, 28, is yet to strut his stuff on football's biggest stage.

"I was very, very, very, very appreciative and I told Ernie that," Cunningham said.

"I'm sorry about the fifth yellow card but I'll be back to help the team. My mentality is with the Phoenix, and when the time for selection comes, it's time for selection. Costa Rica have a very tough group; England, Italy and Uruguay. But if I get picked, I won't be going for a tour, I will be going for competition."

While Hernandez has played well in most games this season, some fans were wondering if Merrick had bought a lemon as Cunningham laboured through the opening rounds of the A-League.

But Merrick remained optimistic throughout, pointing to the fact that Hernandez experienced similar struggles in his debut season before eventually emerging as the league's MVP.

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Cunningham's game sense in a new left midfield role is beginning to match his obvious athleticism.

There is more to come as he and Hernandez start finding the back of the net with regularity and it is not a stretch to suggest that the now settled pair hold the key to an unlikely finals push.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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