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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup

Javier Hernandez's connection with Chivas and its fans still runs deep

Javier Hernandez will surely have an eye on the Liga MX playoffs as his former club Chivas face Club America in the opening round.

For the same reasons that a hometown puffs up with pride whenever a local boy makes good, there exists a strong connection between Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and the club that started him on his career as a professional, Club Deportivo Guadalajara, better known (as Hernandez is by his nickname) as Chivas.

Hernandez played only four years professionally for Chivas, leaving in 2010, but he was a member of the youth corps before that, so his time with the club goes back to 1997. With Chivas, Hernandez first made the dashing, exquisitely timed runs to goal that so often produce amazing results.

His connection to his boyhood club remains strong. On Twitter, Hernandez posted a message of congratulations to the club for their long history in Mexico.

However, it's likely to be Chivas and fans of the club congratulating Hernandez next. The dynamic forward is on the cusp of becoming the Mexican national team's all-time leading goal scorer. Hernandez only needs four goals to become the leader and three to tie Jared Borgetti, who currently hold the record at 46.

A move to Germany revitalized Hernandez. After five years in England, his skills were growing stale riding the bench at Manchester United. Now playing in regular games as part of Bayer Leverkusen, Hernandez is performing well for both club and country.

On the club level, Hernandez and his teammates are celebrating reaching the Champions League.

With the national team, the dynamic forward is one of the Mexico's leaders in the slate of upcoming important international competitions, including this summer's Copa America, where many expect he will play well and claim the national team scoring record.

In contrast, things haven't gone so well for Guadalajara since Hernandez left the team. The club was still recently fighting back the threat of relegation. That's a far cry from when the team used to compete regularly for a title.

Though he only scored one goal in the 2006 Apertura season for Guadalajara, Hernandez was still a part of the team that won the league championship for Chivas back then. It remains the only league title the club has won in the 21st century, after winning ten before that.

While it makes perfect sense that Chivas fans feel proud of the exceptional player their club helped develop, it doesn't replace feeling proud of the club itself. However, as Chivas heads into the Clausura 2016 Liguilla quarterfinals against Club America, it's been a decade since their supporters could feel that championship sense of accomplishment. While Chivas could always surprise with a run to another title, it's going to be a daunting task as they open the playoffs against arch-rivals Club America. It's more likely that Chivas fans will instead be celebrating more goals by Hernandez for El Tri or Bayer Leverkusen soon.

However, there's always the possibility that Hernandez will once again return to play for his boyhood club. Mexico veteran defender Rafael Marquez did that earlier this year, joining Atlas to wind down his professional career with the same club he originally started with.

Hernandez certainly seemed to welcome the idea when it was raised.

Chivas fans would probably hope they don't have to wait until the return of Hernandez to feel gratified by their team again. Until then, they'll join many Mexico fans in celebrating the accomplishments of Hernandez, with perhaps an extra bit of pride in their team's history with the player.

Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.


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