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On opening weekend of the 27th Major League Soccer season, one match stood out above the rest. New York City FC at the Los Angeles Galaxy is a classic East Coast/West Coast matchup between two teams with winning traditions and boldfaced names, including one of the biggest names in the MLS, Mexico National Team superstar Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

The game lived up to the hype. It was a tense affair for 89 minutes until Chicharito stepped up and stole three points for his team with the final whistle just moments away.

Defending MLS champions NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy was one of the premier matchups of the league’s opening weekend

To kick off the 2022 MLS season, the schedule makers put together some excellent matchups. Minnesota United vs. Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution vs. Portland Timbers, and Nashville FC vs. Seattle Sounders all promised great action and delivered.

However, there was no more hyped or more dramatic game than the defending MLS champion NYCFC flying across the country to take on the winingest club in league history, the LA Galaxy.

NYCFC returned nearly all their stars from last season’s MLS Cup-winning side. That includes Golden Boot winner Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, fellow Argentinian star Maxi Morales, and U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Conversely, after barely missing the 2021 playoffs, the LA Galaxy shook things up this offseason. The franchise traded USMNT star Sebastian Lletget to New England and brought in MLS veterans like Raheem Edwards. The most significant move was bringing Brazilian superstar winger Douglas Costa to the U.S. After nearly a decade at world powerhouses Bayern Munich and Juventus.

In game No. 1 of the 2022 MLS season, these two star-powered teams played to an exciting 0-0 stalemate for 89 minutes. Then Chicharito showed up.

Chicharito buried the game-winner in the last minute of regulation in LA Galaxy’s opener

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez didn’t do much in the first 89 minutes of his 2022 MLS debut. NYCFC’s championship defense was smothering the striker all game, fouling him five times. He only managed one shot prior to the last minute of regulation.

The thing is, Chicharito is a seasoned goal scorer. He’s scored 187 goals in his pro career, and you can never count a seasoned goal-scorer out until the final whistle blows.

In the 90th minute of the match, NYCFC midfield Keaton Parks failed to clear the ball and turned it over. LA’s Raheem Edwards coolly slid the ball forward to a breaking Chicharito, and the striker did the rest.

He stopped and gathered the ball as NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot slid by. Then, Chicharito buried the ball in the far top corner, past Sean Johnson.

The LA Galaxy fans and team went wild with celebration as veteran soccer announcer Jon Champion exclaimed, “It’s the mercurial yet magical Mexican who has capped off opening day for the league’s most decorated club!”

Chicharito and the Galaxy held off the defending champs for the final five minutes of stoppage time and came away with the thrilling 1-0 victory.

The Mexican superstar has found a home in the MLS

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez of the LA Galaxy breaks in on goal during the match against New York City FC (NYCFC) at the Dignity Health Sports Park on February 27, 2022 in Carson, California. Los Angeles Galaxy won the match 1-0.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez | Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images.

Chicharito started his career with his hometown club, C.D. Guadalajara. At 21, he caught the attention of the most famous soccer club in the world, Manchester United.

The striker played 157 matches with the Premier League giant over six seasons and scored 59 goals. However, that’s not enough production for an organization that has featured players like Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Cristiano Ronaldo up front.

After a disappointing loan spell at Real Madrid (nine goals in 33 appearances), Chicharito joined Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. There, the Mexican national rediscovered his form and led the team in scoring for two seasons in a row, producing 39 total goals.

After a big-money transfer to West Ham back in the EPL, the forward battled injuries and failed to find his from there or with Sevilla in Spain.

Finally, Chicharito returned to North America in 2020 to join the LA Galaxy. Now 33, the goal-scorer has 20 goals in two seasons (and one game), playing just 1,500 miles north of where it all started.

If the Galaxy hopes to get back to the playoffs in 2022 and add a record sixth MLS Cup to their trophy case, they’ll need Chicharito to lead the way. The first game was a pretty good start.

All stats courtesy of Transfermrkt


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