Javier Hernandez

Strikers need to have short memories, something Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez displayed to full effect during the LA Galaxy’s 2-0 win over Austin FC on Saturday afternoon.

Chicharito missed a first-half penalty kick in the 26th minute, denied by goalkeeper Brad Stuver after drawing the initial foul from center back Jhohan Romana. It was his second missed PK in a Galaxy jersey, with the other occurring during a July 2020 match against the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back Tournament group stage.

Instead of getting psyched out, Chicharito remained active and found his reward in the 77th minute when knocking home a cross from right back Julian Araujo at the near post. His performance, with all its highs and lows, sealed the Galaxy’s fourth win in five games to start the 2021 season.

Asked about the sequence in his postgame media availability, Chicharito pointed to staying mentally strong as scoring chances come and go.

“I'm not going to lie, if I score that penalty the confidence can probably lift [me] up,” Chicharito said. “But that's the great thing. If you miss, the most important one is the next one, so mentally you need to be present, you need to be present. You cannot do [anything], you cannot go back to the penalty and try to shoot it again.

“So if it's a goal or not, that's something that I learned since I was a kid in every match, in every play, not only the opportunity to score a goal. If you miss a pass, the next one is the most important. If you have a bad touch, the next one is the most important.”

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That mentality extended Chicharito’s lead atop the Golden Boot presented by Audi leaderboard, as Mexico’s all-time leading scorer now has seven tallies through LA’s first five matches. He’s been ruthlessly efficient, coming good on just under half (seven of 15) of his shots.

Chicharito nearly recorded an assist for the second straight game, having set up Jonathan dos Santos’ game-winner in last weekend’s 2-1 win over El Trafico rivals LAFC. He slipped debutant Kevin Cabral through in the 85th minute for a finish past Stuver, only for the offside flag to get raised.

The 32-year-old has embraced the leadership role head coach Greg Vanney bestows upon him, recognizing how many ways he can impact the Galaxy’s project.

“That's everything that was in my mind, keep going, keep going, keep going because the important thing here is to win,” Hernandez said. “It doesn't matter if I score or I don't score goals, I just want my team to win and if I can help my team with goals that's amazing.

“But if not, like the other game, I give an assist. Today I give a very good assist and unfortunately it was offside. But I'm just trying to do my best, play in the way that Greg wants me to play and then try to help my teammates to be better players, to try to put them in better positions to create spaces, to play soccer – not only to score goals. That was all in my mind that I wanted to keep focused, keep pressing.”

The challenges won’t get easier for Chicharito and the Galaxy, who travel to face Portland next Saturday at Providence Park. A year ago, Chicharito faced the Timbers in Orlando, Fla., before injuring his calf and experiencing a frustrating first season in MLS.

There’ll be watchful eyes on what Chicharito can conjure up, be it goals or assists. He’s also getting increased support from the likes of Cabral, Sebastian Lletget, Efrain Alvarez and Samuel Grandsir.

“Regardless of the team, because I always said it – every single team in MLS is tough and it's very important, regardless of [if] they are champions or if they didn't qualify,” Chicharito said. “That's one of the great things of this league, that you never are going to have an easy game. After the Trafico one, it was a game with a lot of emotions and we're home, all the energy we spent over there and the fitness that we showed, the way that we defend and we won.

“This game is a tricky one if you don't step up and I think that was very important and Greg, I know his coaching staff identified that. They told us the way that we train and the way that we prepare for this game, to [not] relax and to [not] just stop doing what we want to show. We're going to run, we're going to give our best and have our style as well, a mentality. But the attitude needs to be 100, 110 percent every single game, right?”

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