Carlos Vela - Javier Hernandez - face to face
Reuters

Who joins Chicharito, Carlos Vela in top 5 MLS Golden Boot contenders? | Greg Seltzer

The LA Galaxy pulled off a huge coup by landing Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, and at long last we all get to see how lethal the Mexico strike star can be in Major League Soccer.

The 31-year-old had been linked with stateside clubs numerous times over the years before he was finally captured from Sevilla this week, and now he'll be installed as the main man atop a reloaded Galaxy attack. Chicharito isn't just here to sell jerseys (but, oh yeah, he'll definitely do that). As he stated in an exclusive interview with MLSsoccer.com's Calen Carr, he's here to help fire the Galaxy to the MLS Cup.

But how many goals will the poacher extraordinaire provide? Enough to contend for the Golden Boot? That follow-up question compelled an attempt to slot Hernandez where he fits among the top horses running in the MLS scoring race this year.

Full disclosure: There were two guys that would definitely make the list if not for concerns over playing time. Toronto FC ace Jozy Altidore unfortunately has had a devil of a time staying fit enough to stay on the field (only one MLS season of at least 2,000 minutes played thus far), while one would think Seattle sniper Raul Ruidiaz will again spend a chunk of summer away on Copa America duty with Peru.

There's another absence that might surprise in new Sporting KC forward Alan Pulido. While some are very excited by the big-money signing, I can't see him being as prolific in front of goal as the group below. It has taken at least 22 goals to claim the Golden Boot in each of the last eight years, a tally that seems a bridge too far to me (and actually considerably more than he'd need to be a successful all-around addition in Kansas City).

Finally, we'll tip our cap to actual honorable mentions Heber, Ola Kamara and Diego Rossi, and then kick off the countdown.

No. 5: Gyasi Zardes

This spot nearly went to Heber, who could hit a new level in his second MLS season with pretty much the same attack crew back at NYCFC. In the end, however, I had to go with the Crew SC frontman. Darlington Nagbe has arrived to hog the ball, left flank serviceman Milton Valenzuela will be back, young DP winger Luis Diaz should continue blooming, and big splash signing Lucas Zelarayan offers a fresh playmaking gut punch. All Columbus roads lead to their finisher, so you'd best buy his stock now before it goes up.  

No. 4: Javier Hernandez

Some may think this is a little high for someone that doesn't really create his own shot opportunities much. Luckily for Chicharito, the LA Galaxy have no shortage of players capable of teeing him up. If Cristian Pavon can step up his set-up game (he should), and new cogs Aleksandar Katai and Sacha Kljestan can create plenty of creative looks (they should), Hernandez could be an instant smash in Hollywood.

No. 3: Gustavo Bou

Some may be shocked to find the New England forward ahead of Chicharito. However, if the first half-season of Bou in Revs colors is any indication, league defenses and goalkeepers need to look out. He hit nine times in just 1155 minutes after arriving in summer, which breaks down to .70 goals per 90 minutes played. Only three returning MLS players that saw at least 800 minutes of action last year topped that strike rate. And that was before New England added a lead forward for the "underneath assassin" to play and run off of in Designated Player signing Adam Buksa. Bou can score in all manner of ways and has an able set-up crew returning. You've all been warned.

No. 2: Josef Martinez

The Atlanta United defense and midfield are in some state of flux, and now primary Martinez supply line Julian Gressel is off to feed Kamara in the nation's capital. We'll trust Carlos Bocanegra and staff to use their trade revenue from D.C. to capably replace the German cross-meister, and one could feasibly argue that playmakers Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez are set for production rises in 2020. One way or another, the competitive Five Stripes hitman will find the means to keep ringing the bell because that's what he does.

No. 1: Carlos Vela

To lead the pack, one has to beat the top dog. That's how it usually works, and especially when the goal hound everyone will try to chase is coming off a record-setting haul. Vela bagged 34 last season (and only two other players have ever topped 30). That's what all the attackers are chasing and what has all the defenders fretting. Most of the El Tri star's build/transition supporting cast will be back. You do the math.

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