CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will have to face crosstown rivals and reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC without Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in Saturday’s much-anticipated El Trafico showdown at the Rose Bowl (9:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
The Mexican star left LA’s Tuesday training session with what appeared to be hamstring discomfort, and he was not present in the segment of Thursday’s practice that was open to media at Dignity Health Sports Park. A few hours later, Chicharito effectively confirmed the setback on his Instagram feed.
“It's not trending like he will be available,” Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney told reporters after training, “but we're still working day to day to see what will happen. We still [are] trying to get some clarity and some imaging and stuff like that, just to see what we're fully dealing with.”
The injury seems to be an aggravation of an existing issue previously thought to be minor. Chicharito started the Galaxy’s preseason match vs. Portland at the Coachella Valley Invitational on Feb. 12, but was substituted just three minutes in as a precautionary measure. Officially, the striker’s status remains classified as ‘day to day.’
“That's when he initially started to feel the symptoms,” explained Vanney of the Portland game. “Last week we held him out because it was a hamstring irritation, more or less – there wasn't any sign of something significant. As he worked back into training, he started to still feel a little bit off. And so again, just trying to review back where maybe something is or if something new [happened].”
The Gs have the luxury of an excellent alternative up top in the form of young Serb Dejan Joveljic, one of MLS’s most productive attackers on a per-minute basis last year with 11g/3a in 983 regular-season minutes.
Much of the offseason discourse around the Galaxy revolved around the question of whether Vanney could fit both of the strikers into his starting XI. Now, this topic can be shelved for at least another matchday.
“It's the ‘next man up’ mentality,” said Galaxy fullback/wingback Raheem Edwards. “Dejan Joveljic has been excellent last year. So for him to possibly get the start, just filling the shoes of Chicharito is something that we as a team have full confidence in him.
“And obviously, Cheech is going to be a big miss, but it's game one out of 34. So we want to make sure that Cheech is back fully healthy so he can help us throughout the whole 34 games in the season.”
Injuries limited Hernandez to just 12 MLS appearances in 2020, his first season in LA, and 21 appearances in ‘21. The 34-year-old Designated Player still finished as the club's top scorer in the latter campaign with 17 goals before again topping the Galaxy's goal column with 18 strikes last season.