Chicharito: LA Galaxy rediscover "fun" in first win of 2023


And breathe.

The LA Galaxy finally got their first win of the 2023 MLS season Saturday night, beating fellow Western Conference strugglers Austin FC, 2-0, at Dignity Health Sports Park behind goals from Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Riqui Puig.

After a seven-match winless streak to start the year (0W-4L-3D), head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney was fairly muted in his post-match press conference, acknowledging the importance of the three points while ruing missed chances.

"I thought it was a very solid, professional performance for much of the night," he said. "We probably left a couple [goals] on the table that maybe we could have gotten, but beggars can't be choosers right now. We'll take the three points and grow from it."

Chicharito, whose first goal of the season proved to be the winner, was much more effusive after the Matchday 9 meeting that followed last weekend's 3-2 El Trafico defeat to crosstown rival LAFC.

"When you are in this type of club, the pressure and the standards and the responsibility is very high. It's not the same to be in another club and not win six games," Mexico's all-time leading scorer pointed out. "Here in LA, you don't win in six games when you're the Galaxy, you can see we don't even have fans in our stands. So yeah, it was a release, a confirmation moment."

With questions starting to surround the then-winless Galaxy in the buildup to Saturday night, relief was visible on the faces of the players after the final whistle.

"The truth is we're so happy. We needed these points," Puig, who will miss LA's trip to Orlando City SC next Saturday via yellow-card accumulation, told media via a translator.

"I think from now on it's going to give us a lot of life. We're just really excited and happy for this win."

While externally the perception may have been that Galaxy players were struggling, Chicharito pushed back. When asked if he had fun on the pitch during the win, his response showed a deep reflection and a look into the mentality that has carried him through a nearly two-decade career at some of the biggest clubs around the world.

"People confuse sometimes that fun is about the outcome. The fun is about the process to get where you want to get," the 34-year-old Designated Player commented. "If you knew that you were going to win regardless of what you were doing, why would you walk that path? The uncertainty that it gives you, and the hard work, the belief, the faith, and the certainty that you feel that you're doing something good and you have resilience... that's the fun. That's the fun that I learn and that I'm trying to transmit to my teammates."

"It's not about because I scored, I will now enjoy. Or we lost six so I didn't enjoy," he continued. "No, I enjoyed the other moments. Because without the darkness the sun doesn't taste and feel the same. It would be boring! So that fun of the evolution, of the growth, of the resilience that you can show, it's what makes every story, every movie more interesting."

Now, with a win under their belts and a renewed sense of fun and belief, Chicharito and his Galaxy are determined to keep improving.

"We're able to enjoy it," Chicharito said. "Because it's like, let me transform those feelings and how I'm going to catalyze those to evolve, to grow, and to be better."