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Los Angeles Galaxy begins transition with hiring of a new general manager

Los Angeles Galaxy begins transition with hiring of a new general manager
Peter Vagenas, center, sits with Galaxy teammates David Beckham, left, and Chris Albright during a World Series of Football exhibition game on July 21, 2007. The Galaxy announced Vagenas has been chosen to replace Bruce Arena as the team's general manager on Monday. (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

The Galaxy officially entered the post-Bruce Arena era Monday, selecting Peter Vagenas to fill the general manager position vacated by Arena last week while also accelerating their search for a new coach.

But even if the foundation for the new Galaxy is built on the success and the club culture that Arena left behind, President Chris Klein said there also would be noticeable differences going forward.

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"We will move on to the next phase of a very good history for the Galaxy," Klein said. "I'm not trying to get the next Bruce Arena. We're trying to take the next step and learn from what he has brought this club and celebrate all that he was."

Arena, 65, won three MLS Cups in eight full seasons as the Galaxy's coach and general manager. He left the club last week to become coach of the U.S. national team. But the selection of Vagenas, a former Galaxy captain and one-time director of the team's youth academy, signals a move away from the philosophy Arena followed in building his rosters, beginning a transition the team has long been preparing for.

In the Galaxy's season opener last March, only three of their starters were drafted by the club or were products of its developmental system; six others came from Europe. That approach will change under Vagenas, who was traveling Monday and did not take part in a conference call announcing his appointment.

"We believe deeply in the foundation that we're setting with our academy, and we're just starting to see the fruit of that," Klein said. "That will continue. That is Pete's job: Align us from our first team through our academy and make sure that system works."

Klein said the Galaxy will continue to sign big-name designated players such as Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, both of whom recently left the team at age 36. But the focus now will be on younger DPs such as 27-year-old Giovani dos Santos, who led the Galaxy with 14 goals and 12 assists last season.

"Not that you're seeing all of the teams go away from some older DPs, but it becomes more and more difficult for them to succeed in our league as it grows and continues to get better," Klein said. "It's something we recognize and it's something that will direct our future."

Vagenas, a 38-year-old Pasadena native who played 13 seasons in MLS, will have a big role in shaping that future. During the three years he oversaw the academy, 11 players signed professional contracts with either the Galaxy or LA Galaxy II, the franchise's USL affiliate. He also managed the opening of the Galaxy's blending-learning program, which provides for students soccer and academic instruction at the StubHub Center, and the formation of the first girls' academy to be fully funded by an MLS team.

Klein said that Vagenas will help in the broad search for the Galaxy's next coach. Klein said that Arena assistant and Galaxy II Coach Curt Onalfo already has been interviewed and the team is waiting for permission to approach other candidates with rival MLS teams. Klein hopes to interview at least one coach from outside the U.S. and Canada. He expects the team to make a hire before the end of the year.

The only candidates that Klein mentioned by name were Onalfo and former Galaxy and Seattle Sounders Manager Sigi Schmid, who was fired by the Sounders in July. The Galaxy probably will also give strong consideration to Gregg Berhalter, an Arena disciple who was a player and assistant coach with the Galaxy before guiding the Columbus Crew to the MLS Cup last year.

"We're certainly looking for a coach that believes in our system and what we've established," Klein said. "We're looking for the right guy that has a belief in us and, in return, we have a belief in what they can do and how they can move us forward."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11

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