The LA Galaxy are surging at the moment and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is eager to be a part of it.
The club's marquee offseason signing hasn't featured for the Galaxy since the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, where he was sidelined with a calf injury during the Group Stage, and has yet to make his MLS return. Hernandez is finally on the precipice of getting back on the field though, telling reporters on a Thursday video call that he's been making it through full training sessions without any issues with the calf and he expects to be available when the Galaxy take on the San Jose Earthquakes in their upcoming Sunday road matchup (11 pm ET | UniMás, TUDN in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
With the team in the midst of a red-hot run of form, Hernandez said he's eager to see what his reintroduction into the fold can do to elevate it to another level.
"I'm completely fit in that my calf is completely fine," Hernandez said. "I've been training with the team four days now and I feel good, nothing at all. That question will be for the game, I'm going to be available probably for this weekend, and if it's one minute, 50, 60, 90 or whatever, I'm going to try my best to maintain that rhythm and that level the team is showing these last games. We're winning a lot, defensively the team is improving a lot and offensively as well we're scoring a lot of goals. So I think the team is getting to that point where we are going to show that we can be the best team and we can win the championship, of course."
Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto confirmed that he expects Hernandez to travel with the club to San Jose and be available, although exactly what role the star Mexico international will play is yet to be determined.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC | September 6, 2020
Barros Schelotto also said that midfielder Jonathan dos Santos is on the mend from hernia surgery that he underwent in July and is getting closer to a return as well, although he might be a little further out. That return could prove as consequential as that of Hernandez, with dos Santos representing one of the team's most crucial cogs in the midfield.
"[Chicharito] is ready. I don't know how long he can be ready, so we need to check tomorrow, we need to talk to him and then we'll decide what to do," Barros Schelotto said. "But he's on, for the game with San Jose, for the 20 players that will [travel] and then we'll decide if he'll start or [come off] the bench. We'll review training today and we'll train tomorrow and we'll decide tomorrow."
"Jonathan is getting better every day, but he's not 100 percent yet," he added. "But same thing with Chicha, we need to check the last training, then we'll decide after tomorrow if he's ready to start or keep him on the bench."
Regardless of whether both players feature on Sunday, the club seems to be on track to see two of their best players return in short order, a potential boost for a Galaxy side that looks to have turned a corner after their inauspicious start to the season. LA have won four straight matches going into Sunday's clash with the Quakes and have looked much more sound on both sides of the ball than they did during an erratic showing in Orlando that saw them leaking too many goals and often short of ideas in attack.
With the team playing like this, figuring out how to tinker with the lineup in order to get his big-name stars on the field might present a challenge for Barros Schelotto, who seems to have found the right mix of late with the players at his disposal. But as midfielder Perry Kitchen pointed out, the intense fixture congestion following the league's restart means that all hands will need to be on deck. Getting Hernandez back this weekend and, ideally, dos Santos soon after, should only be a help as far as that's concerned.
"There's some top quality guys we have coming back from injury or on the bench as well," Kitchen said. "This next couple months it's going to take everyone. We have 13 games in 7-8 weeks, which is difficult, it's a lot of games especially with the travel the day of the game. It's going to take everyone. There's a lot of talent, there's a lot of guys that can contribute and hopefully we can keep this going."
"I think we've always had the quality, it's just about putting it together and I think you've seen in these last couple weeks that we've been able to be deadly in the attack and also defend solidly," he added. "Obviously in the Portland and San Jose games we gave up a couple goals, but in saying that I think the mentality has been there and when the other team has scored we haven't put our heads down, we've just said, 'OK, let's go, we've got to step it up even more.' And there's never been any doubt that we're going to get a result in these last couple games, and I think that's huge and I think that's been the difference."