The Galaxy have long been the model against which the rest of MLS measured itself.
They have won the most titles and the most games. They fielded the best players, from Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones and Carlos Ruiz to David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In short, they have been successful, stable and visionary; the New York Yankees of U.S. soccer.
No longer. With Monday’s announcement that Sigi Schmid is out as coach with six games remaining in the regular season, the Galaxy’s two decades of unparalleled dominance have given way to the disarray of two midseason coaching changes in as many seasons.
Schmid’s assistant, Dominic Kinnear, will take over the team, which is three points out a playoff spot. Kinnear is the team’s third coach in 14 months and the second appointed in midseason. Before that, Bruce Arena coached the team for eight years, reaching the playoffs each season and winning the MLS Cup three times.
Without Arena, the Galaxy stumbled last season to their only last-place finish and were out of the postseason for only the fourth time.
“After long discussions with Sigi, we made the collective decision and Sigi decided to step down,” President Chris Klein said. “We all feel that this was in the best interests of Sigi and the club, for both the short and long term.”
And more changes could be coming this offseason. Although the front office survived last year’s meltdown, Klein said everyone will be evaluated again.
“We’re not satisfied or happy with where the team is at right now,” he said. “Our expectations are much higher than that. We know that that responsibility extends beyond just Sigi.”
“We are going to look in the mirror and look at everything. The way that we operate and how we can get better. We know that we fell short in some of these areas.”
Schmid and the team are calling the resignation a mutual decision but if the coach wasn’t pushed out the door, he was clearly walked to the exit. Privately some players said Schmid was unpopular in the locker room and frustration with him grew during a six-game winless streak in which the team fell from third to eighth place in the Western Conference.
The coaching staff has struggled to correct the defensive breakdowns that led to 12 goals in the last three games. In that light, Monday’s move, which comes during the Galaxy’s two-week international break, is a last-ditch effort to salvage the season.
“After careful consideration, I have decided to step away,” Schmid said in a statement released by the team. “I understand the timing of this decision is unfortunate. However, I believe this group can come together and fight for a [playoff] spot under Dom’s guidance.”
Schmid, 65, who played at UCLA before returning to coach there, won a record 266 games, two MLS titles, five U.S. Open Cups, three Supporters’ Shields and a CONCACAF Champions Cup over 17 seasons with the Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders.
But he was also fired midway through the 2004 season in his first stay with the Galaxy and was ushered out by the Sounders after 20 games in 2016.
The Galaxy were 12-18-12 since Schmid took over for Curt Onalfo in July 2017.
Kinnear, 51, a former national team member, is the third-winningest MLS coach behind Schmid and Arena. He won the MLS Cup twice with the Houston Dynamo.
The question now is what comes next. Kinnear is popular in the dressing room, according to one veteran, and his stock would certainly rise if he gets the Galaxy into the playoffs.
But a more likely scenario has the team wrestling U.S. Soccer for the services of Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter, whom the Galaxy groomed to be their next coach. A former Galaxy player, Berhalter got his coaching start as an assistant to Arena before taking over with Swedish club Hammarby IF, which is partly owned by entertainment giant AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company.
Berhalter, 45, is believed to be the frontrunner to replace Arena as the permanent coach of the U.S. national team. If that falls through, the Galaxy would be an ideal landing spot, especially with the Crew uncertain whether they will play next season in Columbus or Austin, Texas.
Klein, a teammate of Berhalter with the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, promised he would not rush the search.
“We know that our next permanent head coach is a very big decision,” he said. “So we’re going to give that the appropriate amount of time so we can make a wise decision.”