Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez knows the LA Galaxy will have a better chance of beating their El Trafico rivals without Carlos Vela featuring for LAFC on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVAS).
Still, in some ways he wishes his longtime friend were there.
The pair have been linked since both were youth internationals for Mexico some 15 years ago, and they've shared many moments together on the global stage for El Tri. And Vela's decision to opt out of the tournament because of family health issues will make Saturday's occasion at least a little bittersweet, Chicharito told ESPN Deportes.
“Off the pitch we have had a very long friendship in the 15 years we’ve known each other, when we played in the Chivas youth teams, later in the World Cups we’ve played with the national team, when we were in Europe," Chicharito said in Spanish. "The relationship is impeccable, I love him a lot, I admire him a lot. It’s a shame he’s not here.”
Of course, removing a player who scored or assisted on 49 MLS goals last season would be a big blow to any club, and Chicharito concedes Vela's absence could be "an advantage" for the Galaxy.
Watch: LAFC, Galaxy players talk El Trafico
As for this usually ferocious fixture being played without supporters present? Chicharito didn't say who that might help, but admitted it will be weird for everyone.
“You adapt," he said. "Obviously in our career we have played preparation matches or preseason matches where there aren’t a lot of people, it’s completely distinct, completely different. But when the referee blows the opening whistle the most important thing is to focus yourself. It’s a game, [whether] you listen to them or not, you miss playing in front of people. As a player one has to adapt to the circumstances."
Perhaps we're starting to see Chicharito's adaptation to MLS after he scored his first Galaxy goal late in a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Monday night, following several earlier missed chances.
Despite an unsatisfactory team result, Mexico's all-time leading goal scorer hopes the breakthrough may help him personally.
"Obviously I would have traded that goal for the three points and for the win," he said. "But we know what goals mean for any player — in this sport they give you a whole lot of confidence."