clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Chicharito

Everyone agrees, it was a disappointing debut season in MLS.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chicharito became the latest galactico signed by the LA Galaxy, the Mexican the most famous player in North America and finally now in MLS after multiple teams tried and failed to land him.

Replacing the force of nature that was Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be no easy task, but where Zlatan was bluster and absurd quotes, Chicharito would bring the boy next door energy, a team ethic and that megawatt smile to score goals, endorse products and become the next Galaxy phenomenon.

And well, in 2020 not much of that vision actually happened.

I suppose it was a warning sign when the video emerged after Chicharito’s transfer with Sevilla, when he was talking on the phone with his father and calling the move to LA akin to a retirement. At the time I thought he was making a nuanced point that a phase of his career was over and he was coming to terms with that, but in hindsight, maybe he took MLS more lightly than he should have?

Here are Chicharito’s stats with the Galaxy in 2020:

Chicharito 2020 LA Galaxy Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 12 7 758 2 0 21 7 0 0

There are three related components of Chicharito’s struggles in 2020. Let’s look at them one by one.

First was the injuries. He got hurt on the eve of the first El Trafico, at the MLS is Back Tournament, and returned home quickly. I think the timing was particularly bad, because he scored his first goal for the club in the previous game, and while he also missed a penalty in that game, he seemed like maybe he was rounding into form.

He was out for two months and missed the next six games. Incredibly, he completely missed the four-game winning streak, the high point of the Galaxy’s season, returning in the first game after that point.

He then missed four games down the homestretch of the season. One appeared to be a healthy scratch by Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the other three apparent injury, although some Galaxy fans thought the star was milking ailments to get out of playing. I don’t think I believe that, but something odd was going on either way.

Besides the injuries that hampered Chicharito, the poor tactics and apparent lack of understanding between Schelotto and Chicharito also held him back. Everyone, myself included, thought Chicharito would be a better fit for the Galaxy’s attack, as a forward who does his work mainly in the box and off the shoulder of the last defender, bundling goals over the line and doing a poacher’s job. Well, whoops.

Schelotto’s cross-happy approach was not suited to Chicharito, in fact, and the main attacking strategy, to give the ball to Cristian Pavón and let him score a worldie, also sidelined everyone else, including Chicharito. If you sign a goal poacher and then you make no plans to actually facilitate the ball on the ground up to that poacher, you’re making his job much harder. And since the Galaxy never shot in volume under Schelotto, Chicharito could not clean up rebounds and such like he’s done dozens of times previously in his career.

The apparent healthy scratch of Chicharito in a 6-3 loss to the Portland Timbers at home on Oct. 7 seemed to be a breaking point of some kind and then the rumors really started to fly. Chicharito always said he was playing for the manager, but he also said at one point that he, Chicharito, could not come up with the tactics, that was the manager’s job. Obviously you can read that sentiment in a couple different ways, but I think it was a hint that he was dissatisfied with Schelotto’s approach, and it came pretty early in the season, too.

And that leads us to the third factor that sunk Chicharito’s season, which was officially unspecified personal reasons. There have been some rumors swirling, I’m sure you could find them if you aren’t aware of them, but regardless of what’s true and what isn’t, Chicharito admitted late in the season that he hasn’t been focused on his play like he should have been. His instagram feed went from barely posting anything about the Galaxy to mostly posting about the Galaxy and training and stuff in the offseason, which some take to be a sign that there’s been some issues in his personal life. But again, for whatever reason, he didn’t look like he was really locked in for most of his appearances during the season, and coupled with the injuries and the ill-suited tactics, that meant he had a bad season.

Is there hope of a turnaround in 2021 or should the Galaxy look to move on from Chicharito after one disappointing season? I’ll say first and foremost that I don’t think LA can really move him on, they would absolutely not come close to recouping the transfer fee paid for him. I don’t think a team in Mexico would pony up anything close, so I think that’s a non-starter.

But do I think he can be better? Yes, I absolutely do. If he can stay healthy and be focused on his job, I think that will help a lot. I also think Schelotto’s departure will help a ton too, although we’ll have to see who becomes the new head coach. If it’s Greg Vanney, as expected, he hasn’t really had a poacher type as his central striker when he coached Toronto FC, but I trust that he would not waste Chicharito’s skills by sidelining him tactically, either.

Do I think Chicharito can score 30 goals in a season in MLS? I’m pretty skeptical now, obviously. But can he score 20 goals? Yes, why not? I don’t think he’s washed up and I think 2020 hit him a lot harder than it hit other players. Given his profile and standing, that meant it was far more consequential than most of those other players. But he’s under contract for 2021, and he’s got to be out to prove the doubters wrong, including those in the Galaxy fanbase. He won’t get the adulation for free, but there is still a chance he can come good for the Galaxy.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.