Will Chicharito finally return to the Mexican national team? Tensions are thawing

Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is the all-time leading scorer on a Mexican national team in desperate need of offense. But he’s been exiled from the team since the fall of 2019.

Now, however, those frosty relations might be thawing. Hernández said last week that he recently talked to Mexican manager Tata Martino for the first time in more than two years.

“There were approaches,” Hernández said in Spanish.

Gibrán Araige, who covers the national team for TUDN, said those discussions included the apology Martino has long insisted was a prerequisite for Hernández to return. Whether that will be enough to get him back on the team for this fall’s World Cup remains to be seen.

According to a then-member of the Mexican soccer federation, hours after scoring his 52nd and final international goal in a friendly against the U.S., Hernández violated team rules by holding a party at the hotel. It reportedly wasn’t his first transgression, and Martino demanded he acknowledge the violations and apologize.

The player refused, and Martino has enlisted the support of some veteran leaders in keeping Chicharito off the roster until he does.

“For now, he’s not in the long list of 38 players who will participate in the next five matches,” Yon De Luisa, president of the Mexican federation, said this month.

Said another federation official: “He’s not being called up again under Martino.”

Time is running out for the player and coach to find a way forward. Hernández will turn 34 on Wednesday, and Qatar represents his last chance at a World Cup. Martino’s contract expires a week after that tournament, and he’s leading a team that was shut out three times in its last seven games and needed an own goal to beat Nigeria on Saturday.

Will Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez represent Mexico in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

(Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

To succeed in the World Cup, Martino needs someone who can finish. Hernandez is well past his prime, but he scored 17 goals in 21 games last season and leads the Galaxy with seven goals in all competitions this year.

“There’s no doubt he’s in good form,” Martino acknowledged to the Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas this spring. “That cannot be denied.”

That good form continued Sunday when Hernández’s second-half goal, the first of four unanswered goals from the Galaxy, sparked a 4-1 victory over Austin FC. It was the Galaxy’s first come-from-behind win this season, and the four goals scored were the most in a game since last July.

Hernández’s goal was his second in five days, following a score in last week’s U.S. Open Cup rout of LAFC, but his first in MLS play in more than six weeks. The Galaxy (7-5-2) have won five of the six games in which their captain has scored this season.

The star of the day, however, was Dejan Joveljic, who had been complaining about a lack of opportunity after playing just 193 minutes through the club’s first 13 games. He made the most of his opportunity Sunday, coming on in the 57th minute and setting up Hernández with a nifty back-heel pass four minutes later. Joveljic then scored two goals of his own before assisting on the final one by Efraín Álvarez.

“I’m a hard-working player, and when I’m on the field, I want to use every chance,” Joveljic said.

Galaxy coach Greg Vanney prefers to use Hernández as a lone striker, and because Joveljic is misplaced as a winger, he has found it difficult getting game time while Hernández is on the field. On Sunday, the two forwards showed such good chemistry together that Vanney might have to rethink his approach during the international break.

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