CARSON, Calif. — Dennis te Kloese had a front-row seat as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez grew up in Chivas de Guadalajara's academy, built an enduring relationship with the striker and his family, and closely followed the Mexican superstar's exploits in Europe over the past decade.
But that personal relationship, the LA Galaxy's general manager said, had nothing to do with the decision to bring Hernandez to the club. It just made the task a little simpler. Te Kloese knew what the goal-poacher was about, knew his character, and knew that the biggest hole in the Galaxy lineup — after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's departure for AC Milan — could best be filled by him.
The rest of the attack was already in place.
“There are a few prolific strikers in the world, and one of them is Javier Hernandez,” Te Kloese said following Hernandez’s introductory press conference. “And I think we've always approached it for on-the-field analysis. With Cristian [Pavon] on the field, with the possibility to bring in Alex [Katai] from Chicago, with Jonathan [dos Santos], with Joe [Corona], with Sacha Kljestan, with Sebastian [Lletget] obviously being able to provide a lot of support offensively, and you can have a striker that is difficult to defend close to the goal made a lot of sense for us.
“Obviously, we just started the preseason, but little by little, we would like to go in that direction.”
Hernandez has big boots to fill — Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals last year and 22 the year before — but he could be a better fit for LA than the big Swede. He's a very good defensive forward, not Ibrahimovic's strong suit, and his ability to maneuver in the box complements primary playmaker Pavon's game on the flank.
“He can give us goals, even he can give us a lot of things, professionally, that he knows from 10 years in Europe,” head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “[We saw] he moves very well in the box. Outside the box, we've got a lot of players in the middle and wide, like Pavon, Katai, Sebastian [Lletget]. So we need a real striker, and he's at international level.
“Always he's looking for the ball. Maybe sometimes he runs near, sometimes he runs far post, but he knows where it is going, the ball. I think this is the point why he played 10 years in Europe, because he reads the play.”
The Galaxy returned to the postseason last year after missing the previous two seasons and they want to be a legitimate contender for their first trophy since winning their fifth MLS Cup trophy in 2014. Te Kloese, who in Mexico ran Chivas' academy and was general manager for the national teams, was brought in a year ago to rebuild the foundation. This is another step.
“We entered this offseason after the first year with [te Kloese and Schelotto] wanting to continue to build our club, and we had one specific void, and they had one target in mind,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said. “The fact that they went through and got it done is testament not only to what they can and will do for our club, but certainly to the expertise that they have.
“We're not done yet, but this is certainly a big piece.”
AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman hailed the four-year deal as a “landmark signing.”
“When we need a striker, we don't ask ourselves who's available or who's out of contract,” he said to open the presentation. “We get to ask ourselves, 'If you could have any striker in the world, who would you want to have?' And we get to come up with a wish list. It doesn't always work out that you get the No. 1 striker on your wish list, but more often than not, for the Galaxy, it does. And today it did.”