A beaming Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, holding a Manchester United shirt, appeared on the front of Guadalajara newspaper El Informador on the morning of April 8, 2010. Ten years on, it's difficult to convey how much of a shock the photo was, even more so given recent LA Galaxy addition Hernandez would go on to become the standard bearer for Mexican football in Europe during the 2010s, forging a club career that arguably only trails El Tri legends Hugo Sanchez and Rafa Marquez.
It wasn't Dia de los Inocentes (the equivalent of April Fool's Day in Mexico), although it felt like the type of story that would've been perfect for it. Instead, Hernandez's move from Chivas to United was real, and it was the most pleasantly surprising signing in the history of Mexican soccer, at least in terms of an overseas transfer.
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It's worth remembering the era in which this move happened. Journalism via social media was still in its infancy. Nothing had been leaked to the press, either in Mexico or in England. There were no rumors. It was just there on the front of the newspaper: Hernandez's baby-faced beam next to the sly smile of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Before Chicharito's European journey would take him from Old Trafford to Real Madrid, then Bayer Leverkusen and finally Sevilla, he was a 21-year-old with only three caps for Mexico. He'd only become somewhat of a regular starter for Chivas a year earlier, toward the end of the 2009 Clausura. Before then, Hernandez had considered giving it all up.
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United had gone out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich the day before, with Wayne Rooney playing through an ankle injury. A signing announcement to deflect the news? Possibly, but signing an unknown Mexican striker raised eyebrows in England as well, and journalists scrambled for information about United's newest player.
Yet the deal was done and Hernandez was already in Manchester. Hernandez and his parents had even kept the news from the player's grandparents. They couldn't believe it. "I told him that he's going to give me a heart attack, and he just laughed," said grandfather Tomas Balcazar in 2010 upon receiving the news.
In Guadalajara by that point, Hernandez was the talk of the town. Eight goals in the first eight games -- all of which Chivas won -- of the 2010 Bicentenario season had people paying attention.
The striker's backstory was already well-known, even before Hernandez started to bang in the goals for Chivas. Grandfather Don Tomas, the father of Hernandez's mother, is highly revered as part of the great campeonisimo era at Chivas; he even has a street in the city named after him. Javier's father had played for Morelia, Atlas, Tecos and Puebla and was part of Mexico's 1986 World Cup squad.Javier Hernandez, posing with Sir Alex Ferguson, was considered a surprise signing for Manchester United in 2010. Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
But even with 21 goals in 28 games for Chivas in the course of two league seasons, there wasn't a sense Hernandez was ready to play at the elite level anytime soon. The general consensus was that Hernandez was a player who could make the jump to a mid-level European club, as Rafa Marquez had done from Atlas to Monaco, before establishing himself in Europe and joining Barcelona.
Ferguson's Premier League and Champions League chasing Manchester United was the very elite at that point. Not many had seen what Manchester United's chief scout Jim Lawlor had picked up on, after being tipped off by Pachuca's Marco Garces, who had studied in Liverpool and got to know Lawlor.
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One of the great dilemmas in football scouting is judging how to translate strengths and weaknesses of a player from a lower-quality league to one of the biggest and best. Watching Hernandez play in the highly technical, but slow-paced Mexican league would've caused an internal debate at Manchester United. He certainly stood out.
The archetypical Mexican player is technical and likes time on the ball, but Hernandez was a very different breed; much less technical in many ways, he was quick on his feet and had a superior level of mental alertness than anyone else in and around the box.
Lawlor and Ferguson saw a player with an innate understanding of movement in the penalty area, an ability to occupy defenders and move them out of position, combined with an obsession with finding a way to get the ball into the goal (see Hernandez's goals with the back of his head and his face).
Off the field, Hernandez was a kid who kneeled to pray before matches. He had studied at a private university and he already spoke enough English to get by in the dressing room. The striker had also been brought up in a household in which professional soccer was part of the fabric.
A trip to grandfather Balcazar's house in a pleasant Guadalajara neighborhood -- although not as nice as the Bugambilias area in which Hernandez grew up -- to do a story for Manchester United's club website shortly after the signing was testament to that.
Sat in the back "football room" decorated with photos, trophies and medals from his playing days, Balcazar explained how he had grown up without any luxury in the working class Mexicaltzingo neighborhood of Guadalajara and talked about his grandson's mentality.Chicharito was meant to start on the Old Trafford bench, but instead helped United clinch a Premier League title. Getty
Even today, it's his make-up that Hernandez cites as being the key to successfully making the huge jump up from Mexico to Manchester.
"There were millions [of players] with footballing talent, but not with [the right] mentality," said Hernandez earlier this week in an Instagram live video with ESPN's Sergio Dipp. "I could've stayed with my family in Guadalajara and not challenged myself."
In the same visit, Hernandez's father jotted down notes about places in Manchester to visit, spoke about his son inheriting his leap to win headers and took a call from a French journalist about the upcoming World Cup game -- if I remember correctly he jokingly predicted a 4-0 win for Mexico. Grandmother "Doña Lucha" (an affectionate nickname) was welcoming, offering drinks and joking with her husband. Hernandez's younger sister was asleep on the couch.
The family's middle-class Guadalajara-centric world with all its courtesy and joviality was about to be turned on its head with the move to Manchester.
Two months later, Hernandez would score for Mexico against France in the 2010 World Cup, replicating what his grandfather had done against the same opposition in 1954. It's still Hernandez's most cherished goal.
The rollercoaster continued. Hernandez netted on his debut for Manchester United against the MLS All-Star team in Houston on July 28. Two days later, he scored the first ever goal in Chivas' new Estadio Omnilife while wearing the Chivas jersey. As part of the deal to take him to Manchester, Chivas had asked for a friendly to open the new stadium. Hernandez played the first half for his former club, before coming out for the second period in a United shirt. He left the field minutes later to a standing ovation.
Thirteen months after signing for the Red Devils, Hernandez had won a Premier League winners medal and started for United in the Champions League final against Barcelona. Quite a response to those in Mexico, who thought that he would struggle to make the bench that first season.
When the coronavirus disease pandemic began to shut down court operations in March, the prospect of U.S. Soccer and members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team beginning their much-anticipated pay equity trial on May 5 seemed unlikely. Those odds continued to drop when U.S. Soccer changed its leaders and legal team members and expressed a desire to reach an out-of-court settlement with the players, who are led by Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Carli Lloyd.
On Wednesday, the May 5 date became history.
Judge Gary Klausner ordered that the trial be continued (postponed) to Tuesday, June 16. His order noted that the continuation reflects the pandemic, which has limited operations at the Los Angeles-based federal courthouse where the trial is supposed to take place. If it actually occurs, the trial would begin with jury selection and last between two and four weeks. Judge Klausner also ordered that the two sides participate in a pretrial conference on Monday, June 1. This conference would involve, among other things, Judge Klausner asking both sides to clarify the core issues in the case and to explain their intended witnesses and forms of evidence for the trial. The judge might also use the conference to make one last pitch to both sides that they ought to settle before the trial starts.
In addition to pushing back the trial, Judge Klausner has granted a joint stipulation clarifying the summary judgment record. U.S. Soccer, with the players’ blessing, informed Judge Klausner that it no longer intends to rely on several pages of controversial arguments that belittled the women contained in its petitions for summary judgment.
In February, both sides petitioned Judge Klausner to grant summary judgment. If granted in its entirety, summary judgment would negate the need for a trial. This is because the judge would rule on the legal claims before a jury ever hears them. Judge Klausner would deem summary judgment only if there is no dispute about key facts related to all or part of the players’ lawsuit and, when applying those facts to a legal issue, he determines how key issues must be resolved.
In making their case for summary judgment, attorneys for U.S. Soccer offered a series of assertions that many found offensive and sexist. Some that led to widespread rebuke was the claim that the women where inherently inferior to the men based on skill level and physical attributes and that women’s and men’s teams “do not perform equal work requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.” This line of argument was intended to make a legal point, specifically to try to portray USWNT players and USMNT players as holding fundamentally different jobs. If their jobs are different, the fact that USWNT and USMNT players are paid differently would arguably reflect not sex-based pay discrimination but simply having different jobs.
In an attempt to advance this line of reasoning, attorneys for U.S. Soccer insisted that there is “a materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an MNT player.” The attorneys also claimed that USMNT players “face tougher competition, even on a relative basis” and that USWNT players essentially have it easier since they don’t play matches in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean where “opposing fan hostility . . . is unmatched by anything the WNT must face.” These remarks in totality were interpreted as insults to USWNT players and eventually resulted in the resignation of president Carlos Cordeiro after public and sponsor backlash.
Judge Klausner will no longer consider those rationales in weighing whether to grant either side summary judgment. U.S. Soccer has raised other defenses, including that the players’ union, the USWNT Players’ Association, collectively bargained the economic terms that its members now assert are illegal. Particularly since the two sides have offered very conflicting empirical data about pay and revenue—and this a case where economic analysis is crucial to determining the correct application of law—the judge might be inclined let the jury hear the case.
Whether the case goes to trial is a separate matter. Depending on how the pandemic plays out in Los Angeles over the next month, an additional delay might be deemed necessary for purposes of public health. The sides could also reach a settlement that averts the need for a trial.
Michael McCann is SI’s Legal Analyst. He is also an attorney and the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law.
Carli Lloyd turns 38 in July, a little more than a week before the 2020 Olympics were set to begin. In soccer years, that’s not young. So when the Tokyo Olympics were pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, one might have thought that would have been bad news for the two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time Women’s World Cup champion and two-time FIFA player of the year.
It was not. The reason for the postponement was terrible, of course, but Lloyd actually is thrilled to have another year to prepare for what she said most likely will be her last competitive season in 2021.
“When you finish a World Cup, obviously the last two we’ve won, you reap the benefits of that, you get to do multiple appearances, and all these opportunities that have come our way, but then you have to switch gears for the Olympics right away,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s manageable, and there is no doubt in my mind we would have been very well prepared, but it’s a little rushed.
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United States' Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring a goal against England during a She Believes Cup soccer match on March 5, 2020. (Photo: Stephen M. Dowell, AP)
“Now, as life has closed down, I’ve gotten to re-shift my whole mentality as far as building up my endurance and my technique again,” she said of her workouts in her native New Jersey. “I look at it as another year to get better. Hopefully, I’m going to look back at this moment if I make the team and everything for Tokyo next year and treasure this moment because I’m getting so much out of it and it’s just amazing to be able to have this time.”
Lloyd will be one of seven elite athletes, all women, who will join tennis legend Billie Jean King and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a live-stream event Saturday at 4 p.m. ET for young athletes and their parents to discuss personal resilience and mental health during the pandemic. The discussion, put on by the Women’s Sports Foundation and Yahoo Sports, will be streamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app and YahooSports.com.
Viewers may submit questions before the event via Twitter and Facebook using #WeKeepPlaying.
Lloyd will be joined by Olympic swimming gold medalist Katie Ledecky, college basketball standout Sabrina Ionescu, pro basketball star Chiney Ogwumike, Olympic hockey gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield, groundbreaking NFL assistant coach Katie Sowers and Paralympic track and field standout Scout Bassett. Sports broadcaster Cari Champion will moderate the hour-long discussion.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us to give back,” Lloyd said. “Obviously, we’re all going through a really challenging time, and it’s probably even more challenging for young kids who have missed out on many things they’ll probably never get back, like class trips, graduation, sports getting canceled, you name it. For me it was a no-brainer to get on this panel and offer words of encouragement and inspiration, anything I can, to help people get through this challenging time.”
Lloyd said she has noticed some of the videos girls are posting on social media showing them training on their own inside their home or in their yard.
“People have been getting creative, whereas before all this, everything was organized, everything was with a team. Going back to my childhood, what laid the foundation for me was being creative and practicing on my own. I didn’t need expensive equipment. I used trees as goals, just shot through trees.”
King said all young athletes need emotional and mental encouragement at this time.
“This is something we can provide, trying to just make them feel better and get them through this tough time,” she said. “At the Women’s Sports Foundation, we were talking about what we can do. These elite athletes are not competing, so everyone said, ‘Let’s do some good work here.’”
Said Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, which owns Yahoo Sports: “We know young people and families are looking for a ray of hope. They’re going to get tips and hear information from the experts that will help them find some balance and stay strong.”
Lloyd, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team since 2005, said she is fortunate to be able to view this extraordinary time in positive terms.
“I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head and I haven’t lost my job and my husband and I are healthy,” she said. “I feel like not having the Olympics this year and having another year would be a dream come true: to make the Olympic team, win a gold medal and then most likely sign off and enjoy the next chapter in my life.”
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