Text by: David Barr (@daveabarr)
Photos archivo : Walfri Rodas
Javier Hernandez’s signing to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy is a game changer on and off the field for Major League Soccer. Eleven had a chance to quickly catch up with Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) of ESPN FC to get his thoughts about Chicharito coming to MLS and the sudden number of great players from LigaMX now applying their trade in the United States.
DB: Javier Chicharito Hernandez to the Los Angeles Galaxy changes a lot of things. His huge following in Mexico and his following with the Mexican soccer fan here in the US generates great interest if not the greatest interest of any signing in MLS. It really changes things for his new club and the league.
TM: It’s the signing that for years MLS has been looking for. If they would have drawn up a list of 10 ideal signings, and you take away Messi and Ronaldo, which are probably out of the reach right now, I think then Chicharito would have been number one. He is the most recognizable and biggest name in Mexican soccer. He played for two of the worlds largest club in Manchester United and Real Madrid. The excitement he will generate is going to be great.
DB: There have been other players that were at the end of their careers that have had short stints in Major League Soccer and enjoyed living in the US and enjoy the paycheck. But in the last two weeks, things seem to be much different and Chicharito signing makes it even more so. but you look at Alan Pulido at Sporting Kansas City, a guy that’s in his mid-20’s. You look at Edison Flores with DC United another guy that is still young in his career. it’s a much different feel for when we talk about the future of Major League Soccer and the legitimacy of the league worldwide.
TM: Obviously, it’s the age of the players you mentioned that makes this different than big names that have signed in the past. They are in the prime of the careers and that form will show on the field. Secondly, the fact that they come from Mexico which is the most watched league in the States. So, these players are already known in the U.S. They might not be known in Europe but are household names here. Pulido lead LigaMX in scoring last season. He has helped Chivas win a title. Same for Flores. Fans here in the States have watched him. They know him. I think the panorama is definitely changed in terms of signings, it is so much smarter and is changing the perception that MLS is a “retirement league”. I will say this though – there’s a big difference between the 31-year-old Javier Hernandez and the one who left Chivas for Europe. We will see how that plays out on the field.
DB: Those major announcements have happened very recently, but you look at the rumors surrounding Rodolfo Pizzaro leaving Monterrey for Chicago Fire or the signings of former Puebla player Lucas Cavallini heading back home to Canada to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps. The wave is rising in a big way.
TM: Pizzaro has won titles wherever he’s been and would obviously have an impact. The Mexican player is valued more in North America than he is in Europe. What I mean by that is if Chicago Fire decides to put down a lot of money, he’s going to get people going to go in there and pay to see and you know, there’s going to be excitement in the Mexican press about how he’s going to do. There’s going to be debates on TV in the States and in Mexico whether this is the right move or the people absolutely tearing him apart and moving to MLS. But the Mexican players who have gone to Europe are looking for major pay checks and of course the chance to make an impact in the Champions League. Those opportunities are rare but with MLS literally right on the doorstep and wages rising – it is a great option. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the quality is there. The dilemma at the end of the day, it’s a lot more risky going to Europe where you have to adapt, and then there’s MLS. If these guys have three days off or two days off, you just fly back to Mexico and see the family so it’s an interesting dynamic and not an easy question to answer but as we have seen over the last couple of days – the answers are becoming a bit easier.
DB: Why now? Aside from the three we’ve talked about you have Lucas Cavallini leaving Mexico and going back to his home country and the Vancouver Whitecaps and there are rumors about others.
TM: I’m not sure I’ve got the answer. I see the alliance between MLS and LigaMX being part of it. I think there’s been a collective recognition over the last couple years with increased visibility of the Mexican League and Major League Soccer not only in North American but around the world (such as the new television contract with beIN Sports). We know the level of the league is difficult to judge versus the Ecuadorian league or the Colombian league compared to MLS. You are pretty much guaranteed that if you do well in the Mexican – you will do well in MLS so I think it’s a combination of different factors to be honest.
DB: Last thing, will Chicharito when all is said and done – be the most impactful signing in MLS history?
TM: The opportunity there. He’s definitely in the right city in LA and obviously, he’s going to be an absolute idol from the moment he steps in there and then it’s up to him. The off the field stuff will be easy but he’s going to do on the field as well. How successful this signing is going to be is going to depend on him scoring goals and Galaxy making playoffs and winning titles. I think he can be successful. I would say though, this is a very different guy than the one he left he was the Man United. Now he has a child and an Australian wife. This is a very different guy who left Guadalajara and established himself in Europe. I think he has something to prove.