Tavoy Morgan and Cris Hernandez, members of the Elm City Express 2017 NPSL Championship squad, have each gained experience in the professional ranks.
Cris Hernandez recently signed with Deportivo Tepic JAP FC (Coras FC) in the third division of Mexico. And for Hernandez, who was born in Mexico, the opportunity to play in his home country has been a dream come true.
“It was good,” Hernandez said. “Me being born here in Mexico it was something I always wanted to do, I hope this can open more doors for me and I can help this team win.”
Hernandez is looking to help bring Coras FC back to the first division of Mexico, and to do so, he will have to handle a number of high-pressure situations and matches. While Hernandez believes his time with the NPSL helped him get fit and gain confidence for his chance with Coras FC, he also notes how Elm City’s run in the NPSL Playoffs powered by Mitre have helped prep him for the intense environment.
“It really helped prepare me,” Hernandez said. “Every game you play here is a big game because of promotion and relegation, but being under pressure (with Elm City) definitely helped.”
Hernandez signing with Elm City came at a perfect time for the midfielder in his career path. And his agent, Christopher McCollum, noticed the impact Elm City had on Hernandez.
“Fortunately, Zack Henry and Elm City Express came along when they did, and offered a great environment for Cris to find his comfort zone and get sharp in a professional environment,” McCollum said. “They played at a high level throughout the season with Cris as their engine, and the timing worked out perfectly for him to go from the Championship, have a short rest, then get to Mexico straight away before the summer window closed.”
Elm City Head Coach Ted Haley knows that Hernandez made a big impact in the squad’s 2017 NPSL National Championship, and isn’t surprised by his signing as a professional.
“With Cris, it wasn’t a matter of if it was a matter of when he was going to sign somewhere,” Haley said. “He has too much quality to not sign somewhere…he’s an incredible passer of the ball and not to mention he can score some pretty amazing goals too. He’s a true all-around midfielder.”
While Coras FC are in their first competitive season as a rebuilt club, Hernandez can draw upon his experience with Elm City to guide him and his team through the process.
“When we started out at Elm City it was just a project, an idea,” Hernandez said. “Now I’m in the same situation, in a different country, so I definitely think I can build on my experience, and go out there and prove myself and our team every game.”
Moving to South America, Elm City Express forward Tavoy Morgan received his first taste of fully professional soccer with CA Tubarão of Brazil. The club serves as a sister club to Elm City Express and Morgan, now back in the states after training with CA Tubarão, is thankful for the connection.
“It’s really good to have a sister club,” Morgan said. “Both teams are really good with great guys and great coaches and players.”
Both sides of the partnership are thankful for the chance to exchange players and more, as told by CA Tubarão President Luiz Henrique Martins Ribeiro.
“The exchange of both athletes and knowledge will be a constant between Elm City Express and CA Tubarão,” Ribeiro said. “We brought (Morgan) down so he could get a sense for the environment and get to know our football: from the training dynamics to the day-to-day life of the club and the city. It has been great to have an Elm City player from outside South America train with our squad."
For Morgan, who spent time playing in Sunday leagues before being scouted and signed by Elm City Express, that chance to be around a high level of play was an opportunity he took plenty away from.
“It was great to play against and with guys I’ve never played with and understand how they play,” Morgan said. “I had to always fight more my spot and fight for the ball.”
Haley knows Morgan’s experience in Brazil surrounded will help Morgan grow as a player, and Haley is impressed by CA Tubarão’s operation.
“It’s great to be able to send him down there,” Haley said on Morgan. “The more time he spends around quality players will be a real benefit to him. I was really impressed with (CA Tubarão’s) professionalism, facilities, everything…it’s a great situation.”
Elm City Express’ connection with Brazil recently reached all the way up to the top division, when CA Tubarão struck an agreement with Grémio FBPA, two-time champions of the Brazilian First Division. The agreement means an even deeper connection with Elm City Express and Brazil’s rich soccer history, as the agreement includes not only player exchanges, but a general collaboration over multiple fronts.
Part of that very collaboration has already impacted Morgan, who will take away a great deal of knowledge from his time with CA Tubarão.
“It was good to learn things that I never knew before,” Morgan said. “I learned a lot of movement off the ball and they push you, encourage you to be at your best.”
Wherever the careers of Hernandez and Morgan take them from here, they both credit Elm City Express for advancing their professional careers.
Photo Credit: William Lampert