Alexi Lalas, one of the most personable American soccer players of the last decade and a defender whose vast experience helped the Galaxy win three national and international titles, has been given his unconditional release by the Major League Soccer team.
At 33, Lalas was deemed expendable by Coach Sigi Schmid and General Manager Doug Hamilton as they try to rebuild the side from the ruins of 2003.
He is the first of what probably will be numerous player movements in the wake of the Galaxy’s first losing season.
Reached at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, Lalas, who played in 98 international games for the United States and whose resume includes the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, was philosophical about the turn of events.
He called the Galaxy’s decision “painful” but also “liberating.”
“At the end of the season, I sat down with them [Schmid and Hamilton] and they explained at that point that these were the options, that this is how Sigi viewed that things were going to go down,” he said.
“But the fact is in the past couple of days I’ve talked to Sigi and he made it very clear that with the situation the Galaxy is in right now they’ve come to the decision that it’s just not going to work out for me in Los Angeles in any way.
“It has nothing to do with numbers. Those are the decisions that coaches and organizations make. I’ve been through it before.”
Lalas, who played for Padova in Italy before joining MLS at its inception in 1996, played for the New England Revolution, New York/New Jersey MetroStars and Kansas City Wizards before sitting out 2000 and doing television commentary instead.
He was brought out of “retirement” by the Galaxy in 2001 and had an immediate and positive impact.
“Obviously, at the ripe old age of 33, I still think I’m a young buck,” he said, falling short of comparing himself to former Kansas City teammate Preki, who, when he was named the league’s most valuable player last season at age 40, credited yoga with his success.
“I’ve been doing that [yoga] but I still don’t have the cut like he does,” Lalas said. “I think I’m getting [cheated].”
Being released by the Galaxy does not necessarily mean Lalas is retiring again.
“We [he and his agent, Richard Motzkin] have been looking around at different things with the understanding that this could possibly happen,” he said. “Now that it has, we’ll continue to look around.
“If an opportunity comes up and it’s something that’s worthwhile both on and off the field in terms of a living situation, in terms of a contract, all that kind of stuff, I wouldn’t be averse to doing it because I think that I can still play and still contribute to a team, whether it’s in MLS or anywhere else around the world.
“I certainly am not afraid of a life without soccer.”
He said he might even return to broadcasting.
“That’s something that I would look into. I had a good time,” he said. “I think it’s important that as my generation starts to leave the field of play that we get into all those different things. And not just commentating.
“As much as it might scare some of the entrenched people out there involved in soccer, I think it’s important that we also get soccer players who have played in MLS involved in all the different aspects, not just the coaching and the commentating but also in the front office and the business side of it. I think that’s important.
“It’s been in some ways a painful couple of days but in other ways a liberating couple of days. Every player eventually is going to go through it. You have expectations and realities and, as I’ve said before, you put those two together and you make your decisions accordingly.
“I love L.A. My wife and I really enjoy it here. Certainly, if I stop playing, I’d love to continue to live here because it’s really been a home to me on and off the field. I had a really good time playing here in Los Angeles.
“To say that I was part of the first Los Angeles Galaxy team to win an MLS championship and a CONCACAF championship and a U.S. Open Cup, all those things, is something they can never take away.”