Last season, Rene Hernandez opted to play for the Timbers Academy instead of Wilsonville. However, he might be back for the Wildcats in the fall.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Rene Hernandez playing for the Wildcats during his freshman season in 2012.

Rene Hernandez is faced with a delicate decision that could alter the trajectory of the Wilsonville soccer team’s 2014 season.

Last year, Hernandez opted to play for the esteemed Portland Timbers Academy U-16 team in the fall instead of Wilsonville. Next season, he might be dawning a blue and white jersey and igniting the Wildcats attack once more.

“I’m leaning toward playing for Wilsonville again,” Hernandez said.

If one of Wilsonville’s best players in 2013 and Hernandez’s good friend Garrett Bonnell had his way, Hernandez would do just that.

“If he played this year, me and him would be a deadly combo. We just have such good chemistry together,” Bonnell said.

Before Wilsonville’s 2013 season, Bonnell and Hernandez tried out for the Timbers U-16 team. Though both made it through first round cuts, only Hernandez’s name was penciled into the final roster list.

Bonnell was disappointed he didn’t make the Timbers Academy, but said, “I didn’t let it bother me that much.”

Hernandez seemed to take it harder than Bonnell.

“When I found out he didn’t make it, I was really sad. I didn’t know whether to play or not to play,” Hernandez said.

After Timbers Academy coaches and players told him what a beneficial experience playing for the Academy would be, Hernandez signed on.

As a 14-year-old freshman, Hernandez had a fantastic 2012 campaign, garnering 15 goals, first-team all-league recognition and leading the Wildcats to the quarterfinals at the state tournament.

For the Timbers Academy, Hernandez says he doesn’t belt the ball into the net quite as much, but that’s because of the elevated competition and because he plays outside midfield instead of forward.

Hernandez likes the role he occupies as an outside midfielder.

“I like outside mid better (than forward) because I can help the team on both side of the ball,” he said.

Though Wilsonville lost Hernandez and 11 other players from the 2012 team, they made it all the way to the state semifinals last season.

“Last year, I was a little jealous because we didn’t make it to the semifinals, but I was supportive and happy for them,” Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, Bonnell had a breakout 2013 campaign highlighted by a four-goal performance against Putnam and earning first-team all-league honors.

Bonnell said his confidence skyrocketed last season and in January at another Timbers tryout, he was ready to prove to the coaches he was good enough. This time around, he was offered a roster spot.

However, he was pegged as a developmental player and likely wouldn’t have seen the starting lineup, so he agreed to practice with the team, but not play for them.

“If I said I was a developmental player, I wouldn’t be able to play for another team,” Bonnell said.

He added: “It was weird practicing with a team that you knew you weren’t gonna play for.”

Instead of the Timbers, Bonnell plays for a men’s Nike swoosh team that played the U-18 Timbers Academy to a draw recently.

Though Bonnell isn’t sure if he wants to stay attached to the Timbers Academy, he might try-out for the U-18 team in January after the Wildcats season is over.

It would be pretty difficult to convince Bonnell to miss out on his junior soccer season.

“You only go to high school once. The experience with students and teachers and going to school everyday and they know how you played, it is great,” he said.

Plus, Bonnell says a full-calendar filled with rigorous practices, intense games and college visits can be burdensome.

“Being so serious all the time kind of drains you. It’s almost a break from that stuff. You can just have fun,” Bonnell said.

Both Bonnell and Hernandez agree the Timbers Academy training regimens are on another level from high school or club soccer.

“In high school, we dribble around tires. In the academy, we’ll do functional drills and work on tactics,” Bonnell said.

He added: “It really challenges you to think as a soccer player. You’re not like a robot but you have to get everything right.”

Hernandez provided a snapshot into a portion of a typical Timbers Academy practice: “We’ll do six suicides and then run from sideline to sidelines four times and then do a six vs. six game for three minutes and then a pair of suicides,” he said.

Hernandez might not play for the Academy in the fall because he’s weary of a few logistical changes. First, the Academy is increasing practices from three to four days a week. Also, practices might be moving from Beaverton to Delta Park, which is a nearly an hour drive from Hernandez’s house in Wilsonville. Because of the increased time-consumption playing for the Academy would require, he says juggling school and practices might be too much for him to handle.

“Dealing with school would be hard,” he said.

Plus, he would be climbing up to the U-18 ranks and isn’t guaranteed a starting spot.

And Hernandez misses representing the Wildcats on the pitch.

“Playing for Wilsonville was fun for me freshman year,” he said.

In 2012, Hernandez played forward, while Bonnell was a midfielder. If he suits up for Wilsonville, Hernandez envisions the duo piloting the Wildcats attack.

“I think we would both play forward,” he said.

Bonnell believes continuity was the key to Wilsonville’s success last year.

“Technically we weren’t close to as good as the academy, but we knew how to play with each other,” he said.

If Hernandez plays, Bonnell thinks the team’s 2014 playoff run will extend at least to the semifinals.

“This year, we could get there and maybe a little further.”

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