The star forward and club captain is back in training after missing LA’s last two games due to health and safety protocols, in which their losing streak reached three games and they dropped to the seventh in the Western Conference standings.
Mexico’s all-time leading scorer is concerned, of course, but he points out they’d still make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs if the competition started today instead of in mid-October.
“I don’t want to throw the house out of the window like we say in Mexico, that we’re terrible, that we’re the worst team. No, no,” the 34-year-old said at training Wednesday. “We need to put things in perspective. We’re still in playoffs. Imagine if we improve at those things you mention, it’s going to be very difficult to stop us. That’s the key of every league, to improve in your weaknesses and to maintain your fortress and your qualities.”
LA’s slide includes 3-2 defeats to rivals LAFC and San Jose Earthquakes in the El Trafico and Cali Clasico, respectively, as well as a 2-0 setback at the Colorado Rapids last weekend. They’ll look to get back on track Sunday when hosting Atlanta United (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes), a vital match to keep pace in the jampacked conference table.
LA, underperforming their expected goals total by eight goals (second-worst in MLS), have found success when deploying Chicharito and Dejan Joveljic up top together as forwards. Their wingers have struggled production-wise, and the hope is Mark Delgado’s return from a mini-absence and the arrival of summertime signing Gaston Brugman will strengthen the midfield.
All the while, Chicharito pointed to “accountability” as a word that can halt this tough stretch.
“This is a competition, man,” Chicharito said. “We need to learn how to – when they’re outside of the field we’re all comrades, we’re all teammates, we’re all friends, we love each other. But we’re in the pitch, I depend on you, you depend on me and we’re playing against someone [where] I want to win. We all want the same objectives and we need to be prepared for that.”
Chicharito also desires more consistency in performances, contrasting their strong start to the 2022 campaign with lows that have defined their emergence from the June international break.
“Our problem, I don’t think, is talent-wise,” the Designated Player contended. “I think our problem is that mentality and emotional consistency of maturity. We need to show that if we win against New York City, it’s not done. If we lose against San Jose, it’s not done.”
Shaping LA’s path is that they’ve made one playoff trip across 2017-21. That was in 2019 before now-AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed; the five-time MLS Cup winners haven’t qualified in any of Chicharito’s prior two seasons in Hollywood.
Head coach Greg Vanney expects a lift from Chicharito’s “emotion and passion” as the postseason hunt continues. And the striker, saying “our fans, ourselves and this organization deserves way better than those three last performances,” pledged there’s natural urgency with 14 regular-season games remaining.
“Since we play New York [in Week 1], the urgency’s there,” Chicharito said. “Every point matters, every point counts. I always mention that example of last season where we’re in playoff position every single time and just in the last play with the Salt Lake game, we were off. So every point matters, every game matters.”