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The Ronald Report: How has Aberdeen loanee Hernandez fared on loan at Atlanta United?

CF Montreal's Kamal Miller (3) plays a pass as Atlanta United's Ronald Hernandez (2) moves in.
CF Montreal's Kamal Miller (3) plays a pass as Atlanta United's Ronald Hernandez (2) moves in.

With Major League Soccer (MLS) now into the post-season, we are just weeks away from finding out for sure whether Venezuelan right-back Ronald Hernandez will be back at Aberdeen this season.

Hernandez, 24, was sent on loan to the Dons’ strategic partners Atlanta United for the MLS season, having failed to make an impact since signing for £850,000 from Norwegian side Stabaek in January 2020.

Separation from his family, as a result of the pandemic, and a change of shape under previous boss Derek McInnes were pinpointed as major factors in his failure to settle in north-east Scotland.

The South American may have arrived during McInnes’ tenure, but, when asked about Hernandez in July, current Reds boss Stephen Glass – who arrived from Atlanta’s second string to take the reins – insisted December would be the time to make a decision on the player’s future.

Glass said: “Ronnie is our player and is on loan at Atlanta until December.

“We’ll see how it sits in December, but he remains an Aberdeen player who is out on loan.

“Ronnie just happens to be in the States and not a Scottish or English club.”

Well, here we are.

How have things gone for Hernandez in the United States this season?

Atlanta United’s Ronald Hernandez, right, tries to dribble past Columbus Crew’s Waylon Francis.

This table breaks down Hernandez’s contribution for “the Five Stripes” in the MLS up until the post-season (which they have qualified for after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference):

Opta’s stats on MLS players are limited, but the Dons loanee has played in 13 of their 34 regular season matches, with eight starts, managing a total of 634 minutes, and finding himself below Brooks Lennon in the pecking order for the most part.

In those eight starts, Hernandez has come off before the 70th minute on four occasions – and only played from start to finish in a game twice.

His last appearance was in Atlanta’s final regular season fixture – a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati, where he started at wing-back but was taken off after 68 minutes with Atlanta 1-0 down.

As a right wing-back he’s not judged on goals, but Hernandez’s only counter came in the 1-1 draw with rock-bottom Cincinnati on July 22 – when he lashed home Lennon’s cutback for an equaliser.

It was a composed finish, and can be seen at roughly three minutes in the video below:

From the outside looking in, to view Hernandez’s time at Atlanta so far as a success would be a stretch.

His role, as was made clear on his arrival at Pittodrie, is to be a chance creator, a marauding, modern right-back who delivers service into the opposition box.

CF Montreal defender Zorhan Bassong controls the ball moving away from Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernandez.

However, in his 16 outings, he has managed 19 crosses, creating just two chances, with no assists.

Aberdeen fans who have watched any of Hernandez’s handful of Reds appearances to this point may have been left with doubts over his crossing ability, compared to, for example, this season’s breakout right-back star Calvin Ramsay.

In the MLS, Opta have rated Hernandez’s crossing accuracy at 10.5%.

The table above shows a player managing just under three crosses per 90 minutes played, and only around one successful dribble a game.

Compare this to the numbers Ramsay, six years Hernandez’s junior at just 18, has been putting up in the Scottish Premiership this term, even with the Dons struggling at times:

In his 10 outings, Ramsay has four assists, more chances created, marginally more successful dribbles per 90 minutes and is averaging three more crosses per 90 minutes.

More crosses have left Ramsay with a lower crossing accuracy than Hernandez – but the assists and chances created don’t lie.

Is Calvin Ramsay’s future the key to Hernandez’s fate?

Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay has established himself in the first team.

Of course, due to the impact Ramsay has made, interest from England in acquiring his services has followed close behind. With suitors circling to take him away from the Granite City, perhaps as soon as January.

Ultimately, whether Ramsay is still at the club in the second half of the season could be the crucial factor in whether Aberdeen welcome Hernandez back this term, whether as a stop-gap or with a long-term view.

The fans have not seen hide nor hair of Jack Gurr – a right-back signed from Atlanta in the summer – since the disappointing League Cup exit at Raith Rovers (unless they’ve been watching the Reserve team). As a result, it’s hard to see Gurr coming in to fill any potential Ramsay void.

Aberdeen’s plans for Hernandez are one thing, but – having played on the other side of the Atlantic, having been reunited with his immediate family and been closer to Venezuela, for both his international football obligations and personal ties – will Hernandez be keen on the upheaval of relocating back to Scotland to give the Premiership another go?

It is hard to see Hernandez returning and forging a successful Aberdeen career from this point, but time will tell.