Chicharito feels much closer to retirement than trophies right now with Galaxy

Imaginemos cosas chingonas — “Let’s imagine awesome things.” That was the slogan the Los Angeles Galaxy ran with when announcing the signing of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in January.

At the time many, including myself, lauded it as one of the biggest moves in Major League Soccer history. The storylines and possibilities were endless; of course fans were swooning.

Right now the only thing Galaxy fans are imagining is how much longer they have to deal with this trainwreck.

The winningest franchise in the 25-year existence of MLS is wrapped in a crisis coming off an ignominious six-game losing streak. A late winner by Kai Koreniuk on Sunday in stoppage time stopped them from going winless in eight straight.

Despite the victory, we can’t suddenly act like everything is magically fine. Hernandez, who manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto surprisingly decided to start on the bench Sunday, played the majority of the second half and had some embarrassing moments in front of the net.

The Galaxy’s list of issues is vast, but because of the hype that has always surrounded Chicharito anywhere he’s played, the pressure feels heavier. And his one goal in 10 total games isn’t relieving it.

Let’s be real, we knew from the start it was never going to be easy. He was essentially stepping in to fill an enormous Zlatan Ibrahimovic void as much as he denied that notion.

“It’s just very selfish coming here, getting my goals, getting my attention and then I leave,” he said in his opening media conference. “That’s never gonna happen in my point of view.”

We’re approaching November and we’ve yet to see the goals, but he has our attention for all the wrong reasons.

The challenges of this coronavirus-altered season were a reasonable excuse months ago, when the Galaxy were taking their lumps in the MLS Is Back tournament, which Chicharito left early due to a calf injury. After going winless and conceding nine goals in just three games down in Orlando, they reeled off their best stretch of the year with Hernandez sidelined — four-straight wins, including a pair over rival LAFC.

It was as drastic a change of tides as 2020 has been, but maybe that was indicative of the reality of this Hernandez-Galaxy relationship.

Adding him back to the mix offered optimism, which quickly faded as a free fall to the basement of the table began. Last week’s 4-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes was an encapsulation. Schelotto, who seems to be just clinging onto his job as head coach, subbed him out in the 54th minute of yet another disappointing outing where he failed to muster a shot on target. When asked about pulling Hernandez so early, he responded: “That was my decision.”

A $10 million signing being subbed for an 18-year-old at the crux of a losing streak. That says it all.

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has been a disappointment so far for the Galaxy. (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has been a disappointment so far for the Galaxy. (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

Ask Schelotto if he has any concerns and he tiptoes around the conversation as if he’s coddling Hernandez from criticism in order to keep the ship afloat.

The problem is, Chicharito seems so disconnected and is barely aboard the sinking boat. Because of the pandemic, it’s easier for him to avoid speaking to the media, although all he has to do is sit in front of a computer on Zoom.

He’s quite literally clocking in and clocking out at this point. Collecting a hefty paycheck and falling miles short of trophy contention. The excitement surrounding his presence is as minimal as his contributions.

Neither Schelotto, the front office nor Hernandez seem to have answers. The lack of accountability across the board feels like such a slap to the face of the fan base that it triggered the Galaxy supporter groups to publish an open letter of complaints.

What stood out the most is “you have failed to build a culture in the locker room.” Because removing Ibrahimovic, who many players have openly complained about after his departure, was supposed to change that. Chicharito hasn’t offered much relief there.

From a soccer standpoint, the Galaxy could’ve done so much more to address areas of concern with the money they gave Chicharito, specifically on defense. But if a lion-sized Ferrari wasn’t able to cover up all the holes on this roster then a little pea won’t either.

From a business standpoint, it was a home-run signing that checked off many boxes. The second line of his introductory press release was literally a link for fans to purchase his jersey.

Read between the lines.

When Chicharito’s move to Los Angeles was being finalized earlier this year, a video of him crying while speaking to his dad went viral due to his comments. In Spanish he said it was the beginning of his retirement. It created a media frenzy that led to him trying to clarify his intentions.

But the 32-year-old striker, who now seems like a fraction of what he once was, knew exactly what he meant. We did too, and that’s certainly what it feels like now.

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