LA Galaxy: Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez problem much deeper

LA Galaxy, Javier Hernandez (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
LA Galaxy, Javier Hernandez (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /

Javier ‘ Chicharito’ Hernandez has not scored in his first two games for the LA Galaxy. But the problems lie much deeper than the Mexican’s struggles.

The Los Angeles Galaxy are one of the richest teams in Major League Soccer. Based on their prestige, power, financial freedom, the LA Galaxy should be  able to field a fiercely competitive team each and every season. And yet, they so often fail to do so.

Very much like Real Madrid in Europe, the LA Galaxy have often looked like a collection of players, not a cohesive, connected team which is better than the sum of its parts. It has led to several underwhelming teams, especially in the post-Landon Donovan era.

Most recently, the LA Galaxy have geared themselves around the individual striking balance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede was superb, scoring at almost a goal per game across his two seasons in MLS. But for all his individual exploits, the Galaxy made the playoffs just one, won just one postseason game, and ultimately ended both seasons in heartbreak. Ibrahimovic departed in the offseason, but to replace him, the Galaxy did what they do best: they signed the next superstar, on and off the pitch.

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Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez is the most popular player in American soccer. He is Mexico’s highest-ever goalscorer. He is a demi-god, and that has led to enormous popularity throughout the Latino population in America. This superstar is who the Galaxy decided to replace Zlatan with, and they hoped the former Manchester United and Real Madrid centre-forward would come close to replicating the goals and glamour of his striking predecessor.

But thus far, Hernandez has failed on one of those counts. He may have done the talkshow rounds like Zlatan, and catapulted shirt sales into an entirely new stratosphere, but on the pitch, the same impact has not yet arrived. Hernandez looked dangerous in his first outing against the Houston Dynamo. His movement was sharp, he held up the ball well at times, but overall, his influence was stented thanks to isolation and a lack of accurate, service.

In the second game of the season, a 1-0 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps and in the Galaxy’s home opener, those same issues were again present, only this time far more prevalent. He had just 32 touches in the game. Goalkeeper David Bingham had two more. He had just one shot, which was blocked, failed on his only dribble attempt, and completed just 73% of his passes. They are the not type of statistics of a well-involved centre-forward.

But while Hernandez’s issues are problematic for his own individual form, they illustrate a deeper issue within the entire LA Galaxy set-up. Yes, it is important that the Galaxy get Hernandez scoring. They will not be a successful team without his goals. But it is more important for them to build a connected unit that works as one.

At present, the team is splintered into individuals. Passes are misplaced because the movement is not in-sync with the distribution. Defenders are exploited because the distances between one another are too far apart and inconsistent. The midfield presses high when the backline sits deep. There is a lack of cohesion throughout the entire team, and it leads to a very isolated and ultimately unproductive Hernandez.

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The Hernandez problem, then, runs deeper than just his own struggles. This is a definition issue with the entire organisation, and it is something that will continue to undermine the club as long as their recruitment is flashy and individuals are put above the team.