Can Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez bounce back and rediscover his old form in 2021?
It's the most important question for the LA Galaxy as they prepare for the upcoming MLS season, and ESPN analyst Herculez Gomez believes the Chicharito of old is within sight after a disappointing 2020 campaign that saw him net just two goals in 12 games.
On the latest Extratime episode, Gomez said that he feels people are overlooking the 31-year-old striker's track record and pedigree, which few in MLS can match.
"People are bullish on Chicharito, because Chicharito is, like, of the Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore mold to the Mexican national team," Gomez told co-hosts Andrew Wiebe and David Gass. "They discard him, discredit him at every turn, but people don't realize that this guy, he's played at Manchester United. Oh, by the way, the last decade at Manchester United he was the third-leading goal-scorer. He's played at Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Keylor Navas. He was voted Bundesliga Forward of the Year when he was at Leverkusen."
The biggest key for Hernandez, Gomez said, is simply staying healthy and maintaining his fitness level. Factor in the Galaxy's new head coach (Greg Vanney) and offseason additions, and it could also elevate his stock with Mexico's national team. Hernandez is El Tri's all-time leading goalscorer with 52 tallies, and they're dealing with standout Raul Jimenez recovering from a head injury.
"When he is hot, he scores goals and he is one of the best in Conacaf, if not the best, at it," said Gomez. "There's no better No. 9 at doing what he does than Javier Hernandez. He's still of a very good age, I believe he's 31 years old. But when he's not scoring goals he doesn't do much for you. So he needs to be physically fit, one. I mean like physically fit, being able to move around, run. And two, stay healthy because that's been an issue.
"And if he can do this, with the way Greg Vanney will implement him in that system and the way we've seen Toronto FC get the most out of their players -- I really feel that if he scores one goal, it will become two, it will become three, four, and we're going to see him hot and again on that [national team] radar. And if there's no Raul, the leading goal-scorer in the history of the Mexican national team, at 31 years of age? That's not a bad shout."
For more from Gomez on Extratime, check out the full episode here.