Mexico has announced its preliminary roster for the 2022 World Cup, and there’s a glaring omission, albeit not a surprise. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer, will not be on that plane heading for Qatar in November. And it has nothing to do with actual soccer.
If you’re trying to make sense of it, don’t.
Since arriving in Major League Soccer, Hernández has been one of the most consistent players in what he does best — scoring goals. His first season in 2020 was a tumultuous one as he navigated personal issues that admittedly had an effect on his performances. He bounced back and scored 17 goals in the following season, falling just two short of the Golden Boot winner, and that was even after missing an extended period of time due to injury.
This year he scored 18 and led the LA Galaxy to a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference, the franchise’s best since 2016.
Playing in L.A. also serves as a reminder to Chicharito of how much the Mexicans love him. Even rival LAFC fans put club rooting interests aside when hoping to sneak a picture or autograph. His status as a Mexican legend is etched in stone.
Yet, ask disgruntled head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino about Hernández and he will tell you that he has simply decided to go with other strikers.
Rogelio Funes Mori, Alexis Vega, Henry Martin, and Jesús Corona are some of the players he chooses instead. Corona, however, is still injured after fracturing his fibula over the summer as is Raul Jimenez. Martino has stated that he’ll wait until “the last minute” for Jimenez and Corona’s injuries to heal before deciding if they’ll join the team heading for Qatar.
But through qualifying and friendlies, it’s clear El Tri’s biggest area of concern is in the final third. Chance creation and scoring have been a headache, and also a large talking point when you fail to give someone so iconic to a country a chance to help.
Whatever internal spat Tata has with Chicharito, it was the coach’s pride and stubbornness that kept him off the list. Hernández, unlike his Los Angeles counterpart Carlos Vela, still has hopes of donning the El Tri jersey.