Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez understandably was happy to score his second goal of the season Wednesday against the Seattle Sounders and give the LA Galaxy a glimmer of hope regarding their slim MLS Cup playoff chances. But the Galaxy, mirroring Hernandez’s train wreck of a season, were eliminated from postseason play in a 1-1 tie at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Hernandez also was remorseful to see last week’s dismissal of head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and even told him he wished he could have done better for him. But the all-time leading scorer for Mexico’s national team had a great deal more to be sorry for.
The 32-year-old joined the Galaxy in January after the five-time MLS Cup champions paid a reported transfer fee of $9.4 million to Spanish side Sevilla and then received a three-year contract with the Galaxy which guarantees him an annual salary of $6 million, plus incentives.
And what did the Galaxy get in return? Two goals and no assists in 720 minutes spread over 11 appearances (including seven starts).
“First of all,” he said when asked what the lessons he’s taken from this season were, “I laugh because I don’t have enough time to tell you how much I’ve learned this year. I can’t say or give you a summary about it. I learned a lot; I learned a lot.
“I don’t have time; I can do an interview just with you and spend one hour and one hour is even a little bit for that.”
Hernandez, whose goal in the 78th minute Sunday (he went 21 minutes in relief of Ethan Zubak) was his first since the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla., in July, admitted he had what he called “a pretty bad season,” one that included a partially torn calf muscle that forced him out of action from late July to early September and then a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games until Sunday.
“Like I said it in my social media,” he told reporters, “I want to take this opportunity as well and say sorry to all my fans and sorry to all the LA Galaxy fans, and I say sorry that this was a bad season for me. I didn’t give them my best, but I wanted to show at least in these last games that that’s what I can give, and I want that.
“I want to give that, because you deserve better, I deserve better, everyone deserves better in this club. I even joked with my teammates and with everyone that I’m sorry, but I am back. I finally arrived. It was very late, but I arrived.”
Hernandez already was pointing to the 2021 season as a comeback of sorts. Not only for the franchise but especially on a personal level.
“I’m sorry and I take responsibility on my side,” he said, “and taking that responsibility I know that I want to give everything next season and in these games as you can see. Then in this life, everything starts to come along, and flow and then good things come.
“You saw the two performances of the whole team” — Sunday’s tie and a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake last Sunday — “they were much better. We’re trying to improve, and we’re going to go and try to win against Vancouver and rest, be [self-critical] as we all need to take that responsibility and start the next season thinking that we want to be champions.”
Interim head coach Dominic Kinnear said everyone around the Galaxy could feel Hernandez’s season-long futility. His goal Sunday, Kinnear added, likely alleviated much of that.
“He’s a frustrated guy right now,” Kinnear said. “I think he probably felt a lot of weight off his shoulders when the ball hit the net.”
Kinnear laughed when asked what he had learned about the native of Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Just getting to know the guy, to be honest with you,” he replied. “He hasn’t been with the team a heckuva lot … you have to remember that. I can only speak about him from my communication with him the last couple of days.
“I’ve learned everything because I didn’t know him at all before he came here. The first thing I have to say is I think his English is excellent. He has a good sense of humor. We know he’s a good finisher and a good soccer player.
“I think hopefully with this goal tonight and a couple more chances on Sunday, were it to happen, it leads to something great for 2021.”