Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández will miss the rest of the MLS season with a torn ligament in his right knee, the team said on Friday, a career-ending injury. Hernández picked up the injury midway through the first half of Wednesday’s US Open Cup quarterfinals 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 lose his contract at the end of the season.
Hernández led the Galaxy in each of the last two seasons, scoring 35 combined goals, the second-best in MLS over that period. He missed the first five games this season with a hamstring injury and has recorded just one goal and one assist in nine appearances this season for the Galaxy (3-9-3), bottom in the 29-team league .
Hernández, Mexico’s all-time top scorer with 52 international goals, joined Galaxy ahead of the 2020 season and signed a three-year deal that netted 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 Galaxy $28.8 million.
Last year, performance clauses were enacted in the designed player contract, extending the contract for a fourth season and a guaranteed $7.4 million, making Hernández the third-highest-paid player in the league. If the Galaxy put Hernández on the injury list at the end of the season, they can sign another designated player. However, due to the sanctions imposed on the team by the MLS last December for violating the league’s pay rules, the Galaxy are restricted in the types of players they can sign to replace him.
Hernández, whose father and grandfather played for the Mexico national team at World Cups, began his career at the age of 9 in the Chivas youth program in Guadalajara and then made his first team debut in 2006. After the 2010 World Cup, in which he scored two goals in four appearances, Hernández moved to Manchester United in the English Premier League. This was the first stop of a five-team, three-country European tour, playing for Real Madrid, Bayern Leverkusen, West Ham United and Sevilla, winning two EPL Championships, Europa League and Club World Cup titles and starting in a Champions League final.
He has also scored a goal at three different World Cups and made 109 appearances for Mexico. Including the last two seasons with the Galaxy, Hernández has scored ten goals or more eight times in 18 first-team seasons.
During Wednesday’s game in which he injured himself, Hernández rushed the center of Real Salt Lake’s defense in the 24th minute minute, he stretched about 15 yards outside the box after a pass from team-mate Riqui Puig. Hernández, untouched in the game, then fell to the grass and immediately waved to the Galaxy bench for help when Puig and three RSL players came in to comfort him.
He was carried off the pitch into the dressing room, his face covered with a towel and shaking his head as his teammates slapped him on the shoulder. He flew back to Los Angeles with the team and underwent an MRI on Thursday, but the team didn’t announce the results until Friday morning.