Will Chicharito finally return to the Mexican national team? Tensions are thawing

·3 min read
El delantero mexicano Javier Hernández del LA Galaxy tras anotar un gol ante Austin FC, el sábado 15 de mayo de 2021, en Carson, California. (AP Foto/Mark J. Terrill)
Galaxy star Javier "Chicharito" Hernández says he recently talked to Mexico manager Tata Martino. Could a return to the national team be coming? (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is the all-time leading scorer on a Mexican national team in desperate need of offense. But he’s been exiled from the team since the fall of 2019.

Now, however, those frosty relations might be thawing. Hernández said last week that he recently talked to Mexican manager Tata Martino for the first time in more than two years.

“There were approaches,” Hernández said in Spanish.

Gibrán Araige, who covers the national team for TUDN, said those discussions included the apology Martino has long insisted was a prerequisite for Hernández to return. Whether that will be enough to get him back on the team for this fall’s World Cup remains to be seen.

According to a then-member of the Mexican soccer federation, hours after scoring his 52nd and final international goal in a friendly against the U.S., Hernández violated team rules by holding a party at the hotel. It reportedly wasn’t his first transgression, and Martino demanded he acknowledge the violations and apologize.

The player refused, and Martino has enlisted the support of some veteran leaders in keeping Chicharito off the roster until he does.

“For now, he’s not in the long list of 38 players who will participate in the next five matches,” Yon De Luisa, president of the Mexican federation, said this month.

Said another federation official: “He’s not being called up again under Martino.”

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez controls the ball during a game.
Will Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez represent Mexico in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? (Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

Time is running out for the player and coach to find a way forward. Hernández will turn 34 on Wednesday, and Qatar represents his last chance at a World Cup. Martino’s contract expires a week after that tournament, and he’s leading a team that was shut out three times in its last seven games and needed an own goal to beat Nigeria on Saturday.

To succeed in the World Cup, Martino needs someone who can finish. Hernandez is well past his prime, but he scored 17 goals in 21 games last season and leads the Galaxy with seven goals in all competitions this year.

“There’s no doubt he’s in good form,” Martino acknowledged to the Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas this spring. “That cannot be denied.”

That good form continued Sunday when Hernández’s second-half goal, the first of four unanswered goals from the Galaxy, sparked a 4-1 victory over Austin FC. It was the Galaxy’s first come-from-behind win this season, and the four goals scored were the most in a game since last July.

Hernández’s goal was his second in five days, following a score in last week’s U.S. Open Cup rout of LAFC, but his first in MLS play in more than six weeks.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.