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LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Chicharito

Star’s best season yet in MLS.

MLS: Nashville SC at LA Galaxy Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 2020, Chicharito was an on-field disappointment for a reeling LA Galaxy side. In 2021, he showed he still had it as the team took tentative steps forward. And in 2022, he had his best season to date as the Galaxy finally returned to the playoffs.

In year two of the Greg Vanney era in LA, I think expectations were raised coming in, naturally so, and while they hit a wobble in the middle of the season, Chicharito was consistent throughout in terms of scoring to keep things afloat and really take off down the homestretch, when the Galaxy were the hottest team in MLS going into the playoffs.

But as important, Chicharito’s durability came through this year, as he played 32 regular season games this season, a career high across his entire professional career, and 37 games across all competitions. That means he missed just three Galaxy games all year, and in that light, 19 goals in 37 games, averaging a goal roughly every two games is a terrific scoring pace indeed.

Here are Chicharito’s competitive stats with LA in 2022:

Chicharito LA Galaxy 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 32 31 2,598 18 2 88 38 8 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 2 118 1 0 2 1 1 0
Playoffs 2 2 178 0 0 3 0 0 0
Total 37 35 2,894 19 2 93 39 9 0

I wish there was a full compilation of Chicha’s goals from just this year, but this one includes 15 of the 19 scored and gives you a sense of his skill, his ability to find space in the box, the varied ways he actually finishes, and yes, the successful penalties.

Chicharito’s main drawback to a good season was his penalty misses, including the back-to-back games in which he managed to not score from the spot. To be fair, after he blew a panenka attempt that would have beaten Sporting Kansas City in early September, for which he apologized, he then wanted to get right back on the horse and stepped up to take LA’s next PK, the following week against Nashville SC. This time, he smashed the shot, but Nashville GK Joe Willis made a terrific save to block it, and fortunately Riqui Puig took the next penalty attempt in that game and converted it to get the result for the Galaxy. Chicharito’s penalty numbers throughout his career haven’t been great, and he’s never had two or more attempts in a league season and made them all, so it’s clearly not his strength. Hey, even Messi isn’t infallible on penalty kicks, just saying.

But aside from the penalty issues, Chicharito was good value for the season. He was tied for third in goals scored in regular season play this year, he led the Galaxy in scoring across all competitions this year, he was an MLS All-Star and the captain of the MLS All-Star Team, he was a finalist for MLS MVP (although bizarrely, he was not selected to the MLS Best XI in spite of being an announced MVP finalist) and he helped lead LA to their first playoff appearance and playoff win since 2019. The expectations for him were high and this year, he delivered.

This comes through in the advanced stats as well. Chicharito is in the top 35 in MLS for the year in ASA’s Goals-added metric, with +1.85, second-best on the Galaxy behind Puig. In addition, on his scouting report graph, his ability to link up with teammates to progress the attack, an underrated part of his game, comes through.

I think the biggest disappointment on the year wasn’t Galaxy-related for Chicharito but rather that the door was slammed shut on his hopes of returning to the World Cup this year. After reportedly apologizing to Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino for flouting protocol a few years back during a camp, El Tri’s lackluster scoring options up top left many clamoring for Martino to recall Chicharito for the trip to Qatar. Martino didn’t, and if there’s any consolation for Chicharito, they certainly missed him, as the Mexico lineup was screaming out for an in-form No. 9 poacher and not having one contributed to them crashing out in the group stage. It’s likely the door is closed on national team service for good for the player, but he still has a terrific record playing for his country to look back on fondly.

Chicharito will be coming back to the Galaxy for 2023, after his good performances triggered an extension for a year, and he’ll be leading the line again next season. Now that he’s come good and now that the Galaxy showed real improvement, the expectations rise again. Even though LA have been hit with major sanctions after they broke roster rules prior to Chicharito’s time on the team, they have time and should have some resources to make some upgrades this offseason to hopefully raise their level once again. Galaxy fans are demanding and impatient, and they’ll fully be expecting a team that can truly contend for trophies next season. If Chicharito can put together one more sparkling season for the G’z, then he could potentially become a true legend for the most storied club in MLS, and that would be sweet indeed.

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