Why Chicharito's Home Debut Has LA Galaxy Fans Stoked

Chicharito joined the Galaxy in January. (Courtesy of LA Galaxy)

The moment is upon us.

On Saturday, LA Galaxy fans will get their first chance to cheer on the team's newest member, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, in the home-opening match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

When the Mexican soccer star first landed in Los Angeles earlier this year, hundreds of LA Galaxy and Mexican soccer fans met him at the airport, joyously chanting his name.

At a recent pick-up soccer game in Hawthorne, Frank Reyes, president of the Angel City Brigade, a Galaxy fan group, said he was proud to root for Mexico's leading goal scorer.

"Me being Mexican American, it means a lot to have a Mexican star on the team," he said.

Others at the game saw it as a strategic play to attract more Mexican fans.

"To sign Chicharito in a city that's so close to Mexico itself, in a business sense, it's a damn smart move," said Charlene Ramos. She said the decision was transparently political. "It's part of the game, and it's foolish to think that it's not."

She said she's already hearing rumors that Chicharito might tempt Los Angeles Football Club fans — Galaxy's L.A. rival — to show up to Galaxy games.

Another supporter, Manny Martinez, acknowledged Chicharito's significance to Mexican fans, but said Galaxy fans come from all backgrounds.

"It's not just one nation," he said, gesturing to the rolling box speaker he brought, which was playing reggaeton, cumbia, hip hop, rap, and norteña. "It's Los Angeles, all-in-one."

Manny Martinez plays soccer with other LA Galaxy fans (Photo by Marv Keller)

Still, some LA Galaxy fans, like Gabriel Morando, are still adjusting to the new addition.

"The other day I clicked the follow button on Chicharito," he said. "If you told me six months ago that I'd be following him, I would be like 'you're nuts, screw that guy', because of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry."

Morando still plans to support Chicharito — as long as he plays well.

"One month into the season and if he hasn't scored a goal, I'm gonna be tearing him up on social media," he laughed.

Chicharito joined the team after playing in Europe, and before that, on the Mexican team, Club Deportivo Guadalajara (better known as Chivas). For the next three years, he'll take the place of striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, whose contract has expired.