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Shuffling the pieces after a disastrous season won't give Galaxy a winning hand

Shuffling the pieces after a disastrous season won't give Galaxy a winning hand
Things were looking up when Galaxy president Chris Klein, left, and general manager Peter Vagenas, right, introduced Curt Onalfo as the new coach on Dec. 13, 2016. After a 6-10-4 start, Onalfo was dismissed. Klein and Vagenas are still with the team. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Failure has consequences, right? Didn't we all learn that as kids?

Mess up a math test and you have to study more. Blow off your household chores and you get grounded.

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The Galaxy failed this year. Failed in magnificent, mind-numbing fashion, finishing at the bottom of the MLS table for the first time and breaking a host of unwanted franchise records for everything from most losses and most goals allowed to fewest points and fewest home wins.

There has to be consequences for that, right?

Apparently not. Two days after completing the worst season in franchise history, the team announced the expected front-office housecleaning would be nothing more than a shuffling of titles and that it would continue to play with the same deck.

Team president Chris Klein will keep his job. General manager Pete Vagenas will lose that title and go back to his old one as vice president of soccer operations. And coach Sigi Schmid is having his responsibilities expanded to include player personnel decisions.

That's it. No staff shakeup, no firings, just one minor demotion and a little extra work for the coach. The Galaxy is going to stay the course even if they are taking on water and there are icebergs in their path.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out the Galaxy's response is far too tepid given the circumstances.

"We've taken a big step back and evaluated the people that we have and where they're best suited for us going forward," Klein said last week.

But, he added, "I wouldn't say anything's set in stone."

To be fair, the Galaxy did fire one person this season — and that may have been a mistake. Under coach Curt Onalfo, the man who was handpicked to lead the transition to the post-Bruce Arena era, the team was 6-10-4 and in playoff contention. After he was fired in late July, the Galaxy went 2-8-4, were shut out six times and outscored 30-14 in 14 games under Schmid.

And Schmid got promoted.

Compare that to how AEG, which owns the Kings as well as the Galaxy, handled its hockey team last spring. When the Kings narrowly missed the NHL playoffs for the second time in three seasons, AEG sacked coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi, the pair that led the team to its only two Stanley Cup championships.

"With that level of accomplishment comes high expectations," AEG's Dan Beckerman said then. "And we have not met those expectations."

The Galaxy are five-time MLS champions, winning their last title in 2014, the same year the Kings won their last Stanley Cup. They are also the winningest team in MLS history, accomplishments that should raise the level of expectations for the Galaxy as well. Yet AEG is responding to the worst season in franchise history by rearranging the deck chairs.

"I think the courage to move some people out is not there," said someone with deep knowledge of the team's management.

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One explanation for that could be financial. Although the Galaxy push back hard when the team is accused of cutting costs, figures compiled by the MLS players union show the Galaxy has trimmed its payroll substantially the last two seasons.

So perhaps the idea of making sweeping changes in the front office at a time when the team is watching its bottom line seemed incongruous.

Which isn't to say AEG isn't prepared to spend. Klein said the team will add staff in both the technical area and in player personnel and will beef up its scouting department as well. It also has money to upgrade the roster, $500,000 of which will come from D.C. United in exchange for its midseason signing of former Galaxy academy player Paul Arriola.

"Taking what we have and understanding the needs, then adding to that," Klein said in explaining the philosophy. "So [Schmid] will have the resources in terms of people and otherwise to be able to do that. We believe in our system. We believe in bringing players through that."

Schmid left on his first scouting trip immediately after last weekend's season finale and has promised to turn over a young, inexperienced roster that was ill-conceived and ineffective this season.

"I am excited for the opportunity to build the roster into one that is capable of competing for championships," Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history, said in a club statement, one in which he also lauded AEG for its "tremendous support … in every aspect of operations."

Maybe it will work. The last time the Galaxy gave its coach the final say over player personnel decisions was in 2008, and Arena quickly rebuilt a team coming off three consecutive losing seasons into one that made eight straight playoff appearances.

However Arena's hiring was part of a larger housecleaning that saw AEG replace both Ruud Gullit, the Galaxy's coach, and Alexi Lalas, the president and general manager. Schmid's promotion amounts to nothing more than a light feather-dusting.

Klein is certain that will be enough.

"We are holding ourselves accountable and looking at this and trying to figure out what is the best way forward," Klein said. "We have confidence in Sigi and his abilities to build a very good first team. And that process [has] started.

"There is accountability, certainly, from top to bottom. And we take responsibility for that."

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11

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