Javier Hernandez wants the LA Galaxy to continue to improve. That includes improving on the field and emotionally!
The Galaxy are 6-3-0 for 18 points and are enjoying their best start since 2019, when they began 7-1-1 but eventually lost in the second round of the MLS Cup playoffs. They’re also just four points shy of their point total from the entire 2020 season.
They’re clearly one of Major League’s Soccer’s most improved teams, but Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez said there’s room for improvement. And the majority of that concerns the mental side of the game.
“The clear aspect we need to keep improving, apart from tactics or techniques,” he said Friday as the club prepared for Saturday’s rematch against San Jose at PayPal Park (7 p.m., UniMas), “is emotional balance.”
Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Vancouver was a classic example of the ups and downs Hernandez was referring to. The Galaxy held a 1-0 lead late in the game, only for the Whitecaps to score the equalizer in stoppage time. Efrain Alvarez, however, rescued them 113 seconds later with a stunning, left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area for his first goal of the season.
“We knew Vancouver is a very physical side, play very direct … that makes it very uncomfortable for every team in the league,” he said. “We need to keep believing if we score one we can score two or three. In the Seattle game we scored only once on a penalty kick, and sometimes that happens. We need to be consistent, maintain our motivation.
“We need to be more together, maintain that emotional consistency. We can keep scoring goals, we can concede a goal in the last minute and Efra can do something magical in the last minute and we win 2-1.”
Such an approach, he continued, will pay off in the long run.
“If we want to get in the playoffs,” he continued, “if we want to be a championship team, we need to be more consistent in that way, regardless of the outcome. We need to be very confident in ourselves that we are good players, that we are a good team and we need to prove it.”
They’ll get another chance on Saturday, their third game in a grueling, eight-day stretch that began with the 2-1 loss to Seattle on June 19. Following Saturday’s match, they’ll be off until July 4, when they return home to Dignity Health Sports Park to face Sporting Kansas City, currently second in the Western Conference behind the unbeaten Sounders.
The Galaxy and Earthquakes met on May 29 at DHSP, and only an own goal by San Jose’s Tanner Beason in the 70th minute gave the Galaxy a hard-earned win.
Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney doesn’t expect much of anything different from the Earthquakes, who suffered a 5-0 loss at Orlando City on Tuesday. But Vanney did say he wouldn’t be surprised if his California Clasico opponent would be a bit more hyped up than usual, considering the ’Quakes were embarrassed earlier in the week.
“I think there will be a reaction from them, in terms of nobody likes to go out and get smashed,” he said. “That’s frustrating. In addition to that you add LA is in town, they’re at home and I’m sure there will be some type of reaction in terms of mentality and effort and all that.
“I don’t think they’ll go too far away from what they do. It will be important for us to be aware of which man-on-man rotations they use, how they initiate pressure and try not to get into a game of chaos.”
Vanney added there were some valuable lessons to be taken from the last meeting between the sides.
“The last time we played them we had a very sound first half,” he recalled. “We left some opportunities and some goals on the table that would have given us separation down the stretch in the second half. In the second half at times they increased their pressure and we didn’t manage it as cleanly as we did in the first half.
“It’s going to look very similar. The question is how aggressive they’ll be with their man-to-man defending.”
Vanney said he and his staff are keeping a close eye on his players’ fitness during this demanding stretch of the season.
“We’re definitely aware of and cognizant of where guys are at physically and what they’ve been able to accomplish to this point,” he said. “Checking in with everybody after each of these games and trying to be diligent about what we’re doing between games and allow guys maximum recovery.
“There will be some rotations at some positions. We aren’t as deep as we are in some others. Ultimately we’re going to check in and see where everyone’s at as we approach (Saturday). We definitely have a plan going into it, but it’s never set in stone.”
Hernandez told the media he was worn out after Wednesday’s game, but Vanney said he wasn’t surprised by his post-game comments.
“Always after a game everybody is exhausted, especially a game like that and at that altitude,” Vanney said. “I expect him to say that after a game because he just put in a big shift to get a result.
“After a couple days of recovery I’ll see where he’s at.”
Hernandez said his physical preparation for this current stretch of games was simple.
“We need to sleep a lot, rest a lot, eat a lot,” he joked. “Everything. Therapy, massage. It’s been a long time, but my body knows about these types of games. When I was in Europe, we’d play four or five weeks in a row two games a week … Saturday, Wednesday and non-stop.
“I’m 33, just trying to do my best to recover. Every way I can help my recovery, that’s what we’re all trying to do.”
The wait for French midfielder Rayan Raveloson appears to be nearing a close.
Ravelson, late of ES Troyes AC of France’s Ligue 2, originally was signed on May 20, but paperwork delayed his arrival in Southern California. Vanney said he should be in the area this weekend.
“Which would put him in the mix for upcoming matches from hereon out,” he said. “Finally we got some clarity at least on the timeline for that one.”
On the injury front, central defender Dan Steres is out this weekend with what Vanney called a mild hamstring strain, and left-back Jorge Villafana took “a knock” in the win over Vancouver and was replaced by Oniel Fisher in the 71st minute.
“It was more of a bruise than anything,” Vanney said of Villafana. “We got that all checked out. If he can continue to recover and feel OK as we go into (Saturday), he will be available.”
Alvarez’s game-winning goal provided fans another glimpse at the immense talent possessed by the 19-year-old from Los Angeles.
It also brought up another issue: should he be included on Mexico’s roster for the upcoming Gold Cup? Vanney said he hasn’t heard if Alvarez is being considered, but he eventually could be in line to receive such an honor.
“He’s a young player with a high level of talent,” Vanney said. “When the talent pops out you’re like, ‘Wow, this kid is amazing.’ When he loses possession, it’s like ‘OK, he’s a young player and maturing.’ He clearly has the potential to be a national team player and has the potential to change games.
“He has all of the tools. It’s just about applying them at the right moment with the right maturity. He’s going to be a fantastic player. It’s for us to continue to teach him and give him the space to grow.”