PREVIEW – The MLS is Back tournament is underway. The LA Galaxy kick off their Group F schedule this coming Monday against Portland Timbers FC. With some changes to the roster and player availability, all eyes, fairly or unfairly are on Chicharito Hernandez.
LA Galaxy MiB Preview: All Eyes on Chicharito Hernandez
The Galaxy didn’t look great in their first two games of the season, eking out a draw at Houston Dynamo then losing at home to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Chicharito was kept off the scoresheet in both games. Chicharito Hernandez, his performances, and how much he scores will be followed carefully in this tournament. His success or failure will determine the Galaxy’s fait.
The former MLS standard-bearers have struggled in the TAM era. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was an imperfect brandade over the club’s various issues of the last two years. This season, they looked to finally be on the right track with the front office. Guillermo Barros Schelotto was finally going to have the players to fit his system and style of play.
Then COVID-19 shutdown the league and for now, we have just the MLS is Back tournament. The turnaround of the Galaxy in 2020 had a 34-game regular season to get figured out in time for a playoff run. Now, the Gs have just three group stage games in the Group of Death to get on track.
The Galaxy will be without Aleksandar Katai who’s left the club after his wife posted incendiary comments on social media about the Black Lives Movement. Captain Jonathan dos Santos will miss the tournament due to hernia surgery. Expect Sebastian Lletget to take over at right wing for Katai and a platoon approach to the midfield with Perry Kitchen and Sacha Kljestian getting more minutes.
With these two player loses, it will be harder for the Galaxy get the ball, control it, and create chances. Lletget’s move out wide will make him less effective (though there’s not a much better option). The responsibility of chance creation is even more on the Cristian Pavon. The responsibility of goal scoring is even more in Chicharito.
The Galaxy have a tough road ahead. They played Houston Dynamo in the opening game of the season and it didn’t go great. The Dynamo have been their bogie team recently anyways. LAFC will be without Carlos Vela but are still a very talented team, defending Supporters Shield champs, and El Trafico rival. The tournament set up is perfect for Giovanni Savarese’ Portland Timbers to defender and counter with Diego Valeri.
This is a really tough group and there’s no cupcake game for the Gs.
Regardless of the circumstances, group stage elimination is not acceptable for the LA Galaxy. Getting knocked out in the knockout stage to a less talented team is not acceptable. The Galaxy need to be a contender in the MLS is Back tournament. With the defensive issues this team still has, Chicharito and Pavon need to score goals.
Chicharito wanted to join the MLS club with the biggest international brand and recognition. He wanted that spotlight and that opportunity to get the Galaxy back to winning trophies. With that comes pressure.
All eyes are on Chicharito.