Major League Soccer
Hernandez deal finally sealed; he reports to Los Angeles on Friday.
With the signing possibly jeopardized by the impending sale of Hernandez’s Mexican First Division club Tigres de Monterrey, MLS executive vice president Ivan Gazidis made a hasty trip to Mexico to close the deal.
"We are proud to sign a world-class talent such as Luis Hernandez," Gazidis said. "He is a unique player whose on-field ability and dynamic personality are matched by few players throughout the world. "
The 31-year-old striker will join the Galaxy in Los Angeles Friday and will be present for the Galaxy's match Saturday against D.C. United which will be televised on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. (ET). Pending a successful physical examination, Hernandez will make his MLS debut in that match at the Rose Bowl.
Terms of Hernandez’s multiyear contract were not disclosed, but it possibly is the most lucrative deal in the league’s brief five-year history. MLS will pay Herndandez, as it does all players in the single-entity league, but the cost was also high to the Galaxy, which was not due an "allocation," thus had to "divest" itself of three players for the acquisition.
Rising young American striker Clint Mathis is now a MetroStar and defender Joe Franchino now belongs to the New England Revolution after a special draft was held today. Because Hernandez brings Los Angeles one over the league limit of four foreign players, one of the current internationals also must go. It is believed that talented midfielder Roy Myers of Costa Rica will wind up with the MetroStars in a three-way deal with the Dallas Burn.
"We have received a world-class player and in turn had to part with some young talent," said Galaxy president Tim Leiweke. "But this has been a passion of ours and a process that we helped create. We strongly believe that Luis will be a major factor in allowing the Galaxy to once again compete for the MLS championship this year and for many years to come."
With 35 goals in 73 international appearances, Hernandez is tied for Mexico’s career lead with Carlos Hermosillo who played for the Galaxy in 1999.
Hernandez spent his last three seasons with Tigres. During the recently completed summer season, his 13 goals were the second highest total in the league and represented 52 percent of his club's 25 goals.
"I'm very excited to be joining the Galaxy to play in Major League Soccer," said Hernandez via telephone from Monterrey. "It's been a dream of mine to make it big in the United States. The time is right for me to move on and experience soccer outside of Mexico."
Hernandez made his first big impression on the world stage in the 1998 World Cup in France, scoring four goals to finish fourth in tournament scoring (tied with Brazil's Ronaldo and Chile's Marcelo Salas). He nearly sparked the "Tri-Colores" to an upset of Germany in the second round.
He has been a key player for the Mexican national team since 1995 with important goals in various competitions, including Copa America – he was the 1997 tournament's top scorer -- and CONCACAF’s Gold Cup, where he was the top scorer in 1998.
"Hernandez wanted to be here in Los Angeles and we are excited about the impact that this player will have on our community, our team and the sport of soccer," Leiweke said. "We believe that we are receiving what will be one of the most important and best players ever to play in Major League Soccer."
A two-time Mexican First Division "Player of the Year" in 1997-98, Hernandez started his professional career with Cruz Azul's reserve team in 1990. He won two Mexican League championships (1994-95, 1995-96) with Necaxa.
"It's a personal challenge for me to be successful in Major League Soccer," Hernandez said "I'm happy to be going to a city I am very familiar with. I love Los Angeles and look forward to scoring many goals for the great fans of Southern California."
Instead of having Los Angeles expose Mathis and Franchino to waivers, in which case defending champion D.C. United would have had first pick because it currently owns the worst MLS record, league officials opted for a "special dispersal draft," something that was cooked up during the spring preseason. So instead of making these players available to other teams in inverse order of their current record, teams were told to pick in inverse order of their record for the last 32 regular-season games.
Therefore the MetroStars, with the worst record in that span, chose first and received a real bonus in Mathis. Next worst was New England which thus picked second.
MetroStars Coach Octavio Zambrano, was the Galaxy coach when L.A. took Mathis as the sixth overall pick in the 1996 college draft.
Mathis, 23, appeared in eight games for the Galaxy this season, recording three goals and one assist. Mathis, who on April 25 signed a multi-year deal with MLS, appeared in 65 career games, netting 15 goals and adding 17 assists for 47 points. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder is a product of the University of South Carolina.
Franchino, 23, appeared in eight games for the Galaxy this season, amassing 600 minutes of play. Franchino, drafted third (30th overall) in the 1998 college draft, appeared in a total of 49 matches for the Galaxy , providing seven assists. He played both defensive midfielder and left back.