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Mexican Superstar Chicharito Joins LA Galaxy Of MLS

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Attention, soccer fans in Los Angeles - the upcoming Major League Soccer season is about to get loco. Today the LA Galaxy announced its newest forward, the Mexican superstar Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: He has been with us every prayer because he's a dreamer (speaking Spanish).

CHANG: Chicharito is the leading goalscorer for the Mexican national team, and to tell us more about this big move, let's bring in Luis Miguel Echegaray. He writes about soccer for Sports Illustrated. Welcome.

LUIS MIGUEL ECHEGARAY: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited.

CHANG: Well, we're so pleased to have you. All right, so, you know, just watching that promo video we just heard, it makes you think that Chicharito is going to make everything in LA, like, amazing and incredible and absolutely perfect. Is he really all that?

ECHEGARAY: (Laughter) It's a very good question. Listen; we have to put a few things into context when we're talking about Chicharito.

CHANG: OK

ECHEGARAY: First of all, he is pretty much the golden child of Mexican soccer not just because of his career, which includes Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham and, later, Sevilla. But also, just from a marketing perspective - you know, Chicharito in English means a little pea. Like, he's just adored by everybody.

CHANG: (Laughter).

ECHEGARAY: And when you come to a city like LA, which has the biggest Mexican American community in the country, it's basically a win-win.

CHANG: So, I mean, it used to be that really awesome soccer players came to the U.S. when they were nearing retirement, not when they had further ambitions down the road. Chicharito is 31. What are his ultimate ambitions? What does this move mean for him?

ECHEGARAY: Yeah, it's a really good question. I think to answer the first part of that - MLS used to rely so much on the aging Europe star. But now what you're seeing a lot more of is actually the influx of Latin American talent, whether it's really young players from South America or Central America or those that are reaching the latter stages of their career. Chicharito obviously fits in the latter part of that.

CHANG: Yeah.

ECHEGARAY: But he can still deliver in a league that, even though it's developing, is obviously not as strong as Europe. Now, I want to pump the brakes on any LA Galaxy fan because last year, LA Galaxy fans had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is just an absolute machine and created so many goals and so many highlights. Chicharito is not a Zlatan Ibrahimovic type of player, but what he will do is he will energize the LA Galaxy fanbase and MLS in general, I think.

CHANG: Well, as you say also, Los Angeles has one of the biggest Latino communities in the U.S. This promo video is clearly aimed at them. So in terms of the fan base for MLS, like, what can Chicharito do that other big recruits have not?

ECHEGARAY: Well, funnily enough, it's actually a path. And sort of imagine the Latin American energized fan base in MLS and the way that teams are promoting their clubs every season - imagine it as a snowball that's just growing and growing thanks to their Latin American stars. And now you come back to Chicharito with LA Galaxy, who's going to do the same with the Mexican American community, not forgetting, by the way, that its biggest rival right now is LAFC. And whose star is there? None only but his Mexican teammate Carlos Vela. So this now creates another storyline, where you have clearly and arguably the most exciting matchup that we're going to see, which is LA Galaxy against LAFC. Imagine, you know, the Red Sox against the Yankees...

CHANG: Yeah.

ECHEGARAY: ...But each star comes from the same nation. And it's just going to be tremendous.

CHANG: I love it. Luis Miguel Echegaray covers soccer for Sports Illustrated.

Thank you so much.

ECHEGARAY: Thank you. This was great. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.