CARSON, Calif. – The biggest talking point as the LA Galaxy kicked off their preseason camp this week was the impending arrival of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and the anticipation was met Tuesday when the club made official the forward’s signing.
Already, Hernandez’s teammates are buzzing as Mexico’s all-time goals leader arrives in the wake of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure. Just ask midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, Hernandez’s longtime teammate with El Tri.
“He's a killer,” dos Santos said Tuesday in his first English-language interview with local media. “He's one of the smartest players that I know. I know he's going to score a lot of goals with us, and we're going to help him score goals. We're excited.”
Hernandez, 31, is the centerpiece of a frontline that's been completely reconstructed in the last five months, with Serbian winger Aleksandar Katai also joining summer addition Cristian Pavon. Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan, returning home to play for the first time since leaving Chivas USA for Belgian club Anderlecht a decade ago, adds further attacking nuance.
General manager Dennis te Kloese, who has worked with Hernandez since he was a young player at Chivas de Guadalajara, said LA was “looking for a certain kind of player,” and Hernandez fits the bill.
“I've known him since he was a young kid ... and I think that's his talent, he's always had the best feeling for position in the box and close to goal from a lot of strikers that I've seen,” te Kloese said. “Now he's matured, he’s [played a big role for several big European clubs], and for us to have somebody that is as eager as he is to come here – and, for us, as eager for him to come over here – I think it's the right moment and the right time.”
In Europe, Hernandez most prominently featured for Manchester United and Real Madrid, with stops also at Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United. Recently, he was in and largely out of the lineup at Sevilla, netting just once in nine appearances.
He's also a marketing force in Southern California, which is home to a strong Mexican culture and population. He's been a focal point on three World Cup teams and has an El Tri-record 52 goals in 109 caps.
“I think with everything he brings off the field, [his marketability] something extra, and that's a plus and that's something we appreciate,” te Kloese said. “But on the other hand, he's scored over 50 goals in 100-plus games for the Mexican national team, which is normally qualified within the first 15 in the world. With him being on Madrid, on Manchester ... he's achieved a lot. He's had championships, he's a world recognized player, and he's a dangerous guy.”
The signing immediately drew comparisons to when David Beckham arrived in 2007, plus Carlos Vela’s presence at LAFC. Klesjstan spoke to the latter, having played for LAFC head coach Bob Bradley at Chivas USA and the US men’s national team.
“Obviously, what Bob Bradley and Carlos Vela and LAFC have done over the past two years is amazing,” said Kljestan. “You've got to top your hat to them, that they've done a very good job. … And now Chicharito coming here, the spotlight turns a little bit this way, and then you know those Clasico games are going to be really massive, and they're going to be fun. I can't wait to work with Chicharito and see what type of guy he is.”
The other major acquisitions this offseason are outside back Danilo Acosta, from Real Salt Lake in the End-of-Year Waivers Process, and Argentine left back Emiliano Insua, a veteran of 13 seasons in Europe. Insua hasn't yet arrived.
Te Kloese said the Galaxy, who opened camp Monday, are “still looking” for additional attacking and defending pieces. They could use another forward and a strong center back. Galaxy II defenders Nick DePuy and Panamanian teenager Carlos Harvey are trialing.
“I think [our moves have put us] in the right way,” te Kloese said. “But we're not there yet. We'll keep on working, we need to keep ambitious, we need to work hard."