Regular travelers walking through Terminal B at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday night might’ve been confused.
The hundreds of soccer fans who fought traffic to congregate knew exactly what was going on.
“Chi-cha-rito … chi, chi, charito!”
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s 11-hour flight from London touched down around 7 p.m. local time, and Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer was greeted by a rabid fanbase chanting, banging on drums and trying to capture whatever footage possible amid the chaos. Due to security measures, he was gone in the blink of an eye.
What welcomed Hernandez Thursday at Dignity Health Sports Park was even more wild. Forty television cameras and over 130 media members were on sight for his introductory press conference.
Despite all the attention, it was evident Hernandez wanted the focus to be on Major League Soccer’s most storied club, not just him — a drastic change from what the Galaxy experienced the past two seasons with Zlatan Ibrahimovic hogging the spotlight.
“Enjoy it, give [the Galaxy] that confidence back and try to score as many goals as I can,” Hernandez said. “I prefer to score 20 goals, 15 goals, 10 goals but doing very good performances and helping this club get to a championship. If not, it’s just very selfish coming here getting my goals, attention and then I leave. That’s never gonna happen in my point of view.”
This is what the Galaxy are getting in the 31-year-old striker eager to get the ball rolling. General manager Dennis te Kloese knew Hernandez was unhappy at Sevilla due to lack of minutes, and hopped on a flight along with head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and technical director Jovan Kirovski to show Hernandez how badly they wanted him.
Championship trophies are nice — and the Galaxy have more of them (five) than anyone else in MLS — but the location is also impactful for Hernandez. He relishes being closer to family and friends at home, and fans are ecstatic at the opportunity of watching the coveted star here in Los Angeles.
In a city with a predominant Mexican population, there’s no doubt what type of energy will accompany Hernandez whenever he steps on the field. It also helps that he joins international teammates Jonathan dos Santos and Efrain Alvarez with the Galaxy.
There’s another El Tri star nearby, too.
The two most famous Mexican players are now in the same city repping rival teams: “Chicharito” in one corner, Carlos Vela in the other with LAFC.
The Galaxy are always in the business of making big acquisitions and chasing MLS Cup, both of which are integral to their prestige. LAFC, meanwhile, is coming off a historic campaign and trying to craft its own narrative entering its third season.
It’s a marketing jackpot for MLS. Not that El Trafico needs any help selling tickets.
“(Vela) knows that I’m coming to the biggest team in MLS and the biggest team in Los Angeles,” Hernandez told MLSSoccer.com.
Digs aside, this rivalry between the ex-Chivas Guadalajara teammates will be more lighthearted in contrast to the by-all-accounts genuine bad blood between Vela and Ibrahimovic.
The games themselves won’t lack for sizzle, either. May 16, Banc of California Stadium. August 23, Dignity Health Sports Park. Mark your calendars now.
The magnitude of this signing is already being felt at the box office, too. The Athletic reported that according to a club spokesman, the Galaxy have already sold roughly twice as many season tickets since Hernandez signed as they did in the comparable timeframe after announcing the Ibrahimovic signing.
“It’s incredible when you can create all of this off doing what you love to do,” Hernandez said. “I’m just so blessed and so humbled that I can feel all of this just by playing futbol.”
Javier Hernandez is the latest name on the illustrious list of Galaxy stars. Except “Chicharito” is different, that just means a little (pea!) more here in Los Angeles.
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