CARSON, Calif. — Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has exactly two official scrimmages and a little over a week of training with his new team, but the LA Galaxy striker already likes what he sees in the revamped, five-time MLS Cup champions.
“I think this team is capable to go the highest we can imagine,” he said Thursday as the team prepared for Saturday’s preseason finale against the Chicago Fire at Dignity Health Sports Park (3 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet). It’s part of another doubleheader, with the first game matching Toronto FC and Colorado at noon. “I think we can get to the (MLS) championship.
“But we need to believe in ourselves first, then work at it and give everything we have to try and get there.”
Those chances very well could depend on the exploits not only of Hernandez, signed from Spanish side Sevilla to help ease the departure of scoring sensation Zlatan Ibrahimovic to AC Milan, but Cristian Pavon and Aleksandar Katai, the former Chicago Fire standout who signed with Los Angeles in late December.
Hernandez was quick to caution this was a team game.
“I want to be very respectful of the other teammates as well,” he said. “We’re probably thinking they could be the three up front, but other players are waiting for a chance … (Ethan) Zubak, Kai (Koreniuk), and Gordon (Wild). In the midfield, we have plenty of options with Jonathan (dos Santos) recovering from injury. You need to have chemistry with everyone.
“I always say one of the qualities I learned, and I saw in the best players around the world is they don’t need someone to play well. They can play well with whoever you put next to them. That’s our mentality, and that’s what Guillermo wants as well, a team capable of whomever is going to play, whichever position to do as good as you can.”
Hernandez said the adjustment to his new team and environment is going as well as he had hoped, despite the lack of practice time.
“I’m trying to give my all to this institution and adapting really well,” he said. “I think that’s something I’ve always had, where I want to be.
“I don’t want to have that excuse that I need to adapt, so I try to to it very well.”
LEANING TO THE LEFT
The LA Galaxy’s Emil Cuello was preparing for last Saturday’s scrimmage against Toronto FC when head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto approached him with an unusual request.
“He told me to watch the game and see if I could play left-back,” Cuello recalled with a smile.
Cuello, taken 19th overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft out of Southern Methodist University, understandably was taken aback, having never previously played the position. But he did what he was told and intently watched the movements of starting left-back Danilo Acosta.
Lo and behold, Acosta suffered a torn knee ligament in that game and, ready or not, Cuello was pressed into duty. The 23-year-old surprisingly enjoyed the experience and figures to stay there, with Acosta expected to miss most, if not all, of the regular season and new signee Emiliano Insua just starting to train with the team following a minor leg injury and a lengthy process to obtain his work permit.
“We’ll see what unfolds,” said Cuello, who figures to start again Saturday, “but I think I’ve shown I can be a pretty versatile player.”
The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder actually could be a good fit at the position, considering Schelotto wants his outside backs to get forward in the attack. And since Cuello was a talented attacking midfielder in college, he should have no trouble satisfying his coach’s demands.
“I’m definitely more attack-minded,” Cuello said, “so I’m a little more comfortable there. On the defensive side, I’m still getting used to it a little bit. But it’s nothing I don’t think I can’t do. It’s definitely a position I could see myself playing.
“The biggest challenge is getting up and down the field. It definitely takes some getting used to … lots of running. Another challenge for me is one-on-one defending. I’ve always been more attack-minded, so one-on-one defending is not my strong suit.
“But I think with a little bit of practice, I can do it,” he went on.
Is his future at the position? Cuello wasn’t ready to go that far. Not yet, anyway.
“My mentality is anything to get on the field,” he said with a grin. “I’ll play goalie if they want me to, you know?
“Whatever Guillermo wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
BEST FOOT FORWARD
Midfielder Efrain Alvarez, injured in Wednesday’s scrimmage against the Colorado Rapids, said he still hasn’t received a diagnosis for his injured left foot, which was in a walking boot a day later.
He was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test Thursday, but results were unavailable. Alvarez, who was seen wheeling himself around on a scooter at training, was hurt in a collision with the Rapids’ Jonathan Lewis, who appeared to roll over the back of Alvarez’s left leg. Alvarez immediately called for assistance and was carted off on a stretcher.
“I heard it snap,” he said Thursday of the play. “I’ve never gotten hurt like this; just my meniscus, but nothing like this.
Schelotto said he was anxiously awaiting word from the team’s medical staff.
“We don’t have a report yet,” he told reporters. “I hope it won’t be more than two weeks.”