Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández will miss the rest of the MLS season with a torn ligament in his right knee, the team said Friday, an injury that could prove career-ending. Hernández sustained the injury midway through the first half of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal in Sandy, Utah.
The injury is believed to be a Grade 3 tear, meaning the ligament is completely torn and will likely require surgery to repair. Recovery can take six to nine months but Hernández is 35 and will be out of contract at the end of the season.
Hernández led the Galaxy in scoring each of the last two seasons and his 35 goals combined were second-best in MLS over that span. He missed the first five games this season with a hamstring injury and has just a goal and an assist in nine appearances this season for the Galaxy (3-9-3), who are last in the 29-team league standings.
Mexico’s all-time leading scorer with 52 international goals, Hernández came to the Galaxy ahead of the 2020 season, signing a three-year contract that paid him more than $19.4 million. With the $9.4-million transfer fee the team had to pay Spanish club Sevilla for the rights to sign Hernández, the deal cost the Galaxy $28.8 million.
Performance clauses in the designated-player contract were triggered last year, extending the deal for a fourth season and a guaranteed $7.4 million, making Hernández the third-highest-paid player in the league. If the Galaxy place Hernández on the season-ending injury list they can sign another designated player, but because of sanctions levied against the team by MLS last December over violations of the league’s salary rules, the Galaxy are limited as to the type of player they can sign to replace him.
Hernández, whose father and grandfather played in World Cups for the Mexican national team, began his career with the youth program at Chivas of Guadalajara when he was 9, then made his first team debut in 2006. After the 2010 World Cup, during which he scored twice in four appearances, Hernández jumped to Manchester United of the English Premier League, the first stop on a five-team, three-country European tour that would see him play for Real Madrid, Bayern Leverkusen, West Ham United and Sevilla, winning two EPL championships, Europe League and Club World Cup titles and start in a Champions League final.
He also scored in three separate World Cups, making 109 appearances for Mexico. Including the past two seasons with the Galaxy, Hernández scored 10 or more goals eight times in 18 first-team club seasons.
During the play in which he was injured Wednesday, Hernández was charging up the center of the Real Salt Lake defense in the 24th minute when he stretched for a pass from teammate Riqui Puig about 15 yards outside the penalty area. Hernández, who was not touched on the play, then tumbled to the turf and immediately motioned to the Galaxy bench for help as Puig and three RSL players moved in to console him.
He was carried off the field and to the locker room, his face covered with a towel and shaking his head, as teammates reached out to pat him on the shoulder. He flew back to Los Angeles with the team and underwent an MRI on Thursday, although the team did not announce the results until Friday morning.