Galaxy’s Chicharito manages pressure as playoffs begin

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez arrived in Los Angeles for the 2020 MLS season amid much fanfare.

Things fizzled out that initial season as he struggled through physical ailments, the COVID-19 pandemic and personal issues.

Earlier this season, Hernandez talked with a group of Galaxy Academy players on the importance of mental health and how he made it through the dark days.

“I’m always learning about myself the same as everyone else, every single day,” he said.

The work on and off the field has led to Saturday as Hernandez and the Galaxy kick off the MLS Cup Playoffs at home against Nashville SC (noon; Spectrum SportsNet). This is the Galaxy’s first home playoff game since 2016.

“What we want to take the most is the consistency we’ve shown lately,” Hernandez said. “We’ve lost just one game (5-1-5 in the last 11 games), we’ve drawn so many difficult games. That maturity that we’ve shown is the most important part we’ve learned this season.”

Hernandez played in just 12 games and scored only two goals in 2020. Last season, he scored 17 goals, but the Galaxy missed the playoffs. This season, he scored 18 goals and played 2,958 minutes, both single-season career highs, and more importantly for him, the Galaxy qualified for the postseason.

“I’ve been giving everything to this profession,” he said. “Every year that passes by and in every position that I’m in, regardless of the country, regardless of team, I’m very grateful.

“I’m still playing professionally. I’m very happy and hopefully if my body keeps responding to my mind, we’ll see how many years I can keep playing.”

On Thursday, Hernandez was named one of the five finalists for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award. His 18 goals tied him for fourth this season.

Following the disappointing 2020, Hernandez said it wasn’t about pressure to perform in 2021.

“I don’t understand why we keep questioning about pressure, if it is a lot or less,” he said. “If you want to be great, if you want to be champion, if you want to be the best out of millions of people, you need to handle a lot of stuff.

“You need to have a lot of mindset, mentality, perseverance, a lot of humility to accept where you need to grow, so yeah, pressure is everywhere, even living and surviving. Unfortunately, because of how the world is made, we need to make money so we can eat and drink water. Pressure is always going to be there, but it’s in the way of you handle things.

“People think that with age, when you get one more year in your bag and everything goes south,” he said. “I’m trying to go against that and go the other way. I have one more goal (this season), we’ve reached the playoffs, so improving is in my DNA and my obsession and pressure and responsibility, whatever you want to call it, comes with it, of course.”

Hernandez missed just two games, both to COVID protocols. He finished the regular season with four multi-goal games. He became the fifth player in Galaxy history to score at least 30 goals in a two-year span.

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“He certainly had a tough time when he first arrived, that’s been well-documented,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said of Hernandez. “In that off-season before I got here, he had certainly recommitted himself to getting himself in shape, getting his world around him into a position where he was comfortable and his mind was at ease and he could focus on his career.

“It doesn’t matter necessarily how old you are, it matters whether your connection in the group is working and certainly he’s been able to do that.”


What: MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference first round

When: 12:08 p.m. Saturday

Where: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson

TV: TUDN, Spectrum SportsNet

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