Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez continued his red-hot form to begin the 2021 season with a hat trick, leading the LA Galaxy to an entertaining 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday.
Andrew Gutman and Cristian Casseres Jr. netted a goal apiece for RBNY, but the three-goal outburst from Hernandez, which gives the standout Mexico international five through his team's first two games of the season, proved to be enough for a second straight win for the Galaxy to start their league campaign.
The Galaxy struck first inside 10 minutes after RBNY's Florian Valot was dispossessed near midfield by Jorge Villafana, spearheading a counterattack. Ethan Zubak had his initial shot blocked, but Hernandez pounced on the deflection at the far post for an easy tap-in finish.
The visitors would find their leveler in short order, though, as Gutman struck for his first MLS goal on 26 minutes. The former FC Cincinnati man and offseason loanee from Atlanta United made a stellar individual effort to win the ball and set Brian White in on goal, before slotting the return feed from White past Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
But Hernandez made sure the Galaxy would head into the halftime locker room with the lead, cashing home his second of the day in the 41st minute. The crafty striker split both RBNY center backs to collect a pinpoint long ball from Victor Vazquez in front of goal before coolly converting the finish. The goal was originally ruled offside, but was awarded by referee Victor Rivas after Video Review.
Hernandez then found the hat trick on the hour mark with another opportunistic tally after a cross from Julian Araujo was popped into the air right in front of goal, allowing for an acrobatic point-blank finish to make it 3-1.
RBNY would strike back through Casseres Jr., who made it 3-2 with a headed finish after Amro Tarek mishit a free kick from Sean Davis into his path right in front of goal, but it proved to be a moot point as the Galaxy saw out the 3-2 final and took all three points.
9' - LA - Javier Hernandez
26' - RBNY - Andrew Gutman
41' - LA - Javier Hernandez
60' - LA - Javier Hernandez
63' - RBNY - Cristian Casseres Jr.
- THE BIG PICTURE: From a neutral perspective this was one of the most entertaining matches of the MLS season so far, with Chicharito providing most of the fireworks. Two straight wins with five goals from their star forward is about as picture-perfect a start to the Greg Vanney era as the Galaxy could have imagined, even if they still have some defensive issues to iron out.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: All three Galaxy goals were vintage Chicharito, but we'll go with the the third and final one, as it wound up standing as the decisive goal in the contest and had some added flair on the finish.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Could it be anyone else? Chicharito is the easy choice for the honors, as he's officially on a full-on tear to start the season. After an underwhelming debut campaign in MLS, the 32-year-old is your early frontrunner for the 2021 MLS Golden Boot.
LA: Sunday, May 2 at Seattle Sounders | 9 pm ET (FS1, FOX Deportes)