Galaxy will look to the past when building for the future
The last four seasons were the worst in Galaxy history, with Major League Soccer’s most decorated team losing more games and winning fewer playoff matches than in any four-year stretch since the franchise’s founding. Fixing that will take more than just bringing in a new coach and some new players.
What’s needed, President Chris Klein and general manager Dennis te Kloese said Wednesday, is a complete overhaul of the club’s culture and a return to the philosophies that saw the Galaxy win a record three MLS Cups in four seasons under Bruce Arena.
“The culture of the Galaxy was always something that I looked up to,” said Klein, who played four seasons for the team before joining the front office in 2011. “It’s something that needs to return to this club in the identity of the players that are currently playing for our team, the identity of past players that have come through here and past coaches that have had success.
“We need to reestablish and get some of that back.”
Which isn’t to say the team doesn’t need a new coach and some new players. The Galaxy sacked its manager last month and the contracts or loans of more than a half-dozen starters will expire at the end of the year.
But the team has already tried that approach, going through three general managers, four coaches and 66 players since 2017. What hasn’t changed in that time are the results.
LAFC will visit the Seattle Sounders on Nov. 24 in the quarterfinals of the MLS playoffs, a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final.
“The easiest thing is to just keep changing,” Te Kloese said. “I don’t think that’s the solution. We need to take a step back [and] create a more sustainable and recognizable picture of what our club is about.”
In recent years the club has tried to win with a homegrown roster, went young, brought in big-name players from Europe and finally turned to an established Latin American coach — approaches that all worked elsewhere but didn’t fit the Galaxy.
“The most successful organizations,” Te Kloese continued “are very recognizable. Being very recognizable doesn’t go into just having big-name players or just playing offensively. It has to do with an entire club structure. It has to do with how you want to be seen and how you want to be perceived.”
Right now, that perception isn’t very good. Last month, with the Galaxy stumbling toward the finish of a 6-12-4 season, Te Kloese fired Argentine coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto — the manager he had hand-selected 23 months earlier — with more than a year and $1 million left on his contract. Te Kloese said he won’t rush to fill that vacancy.
Although Schelotto played in MLS, winning a league title and an MVP award, he had never coached here before taking the Galaxy job so Te Kloese said previous MLS coaching experience will figure heavily in his decision this time. Yet Dominic Kinnear, the third-winningest coach in MLS history and the man who finished the season as the Galaxy’s interim manager, received a less-than-resounding endorsement Wednesday.
“It wouldn’t be fair for me to say that he is not taken into account,” Te Kloese said. “But we have to take that in a sound way when we can sit down and also hear part of his story.”
As for the roster, the core of the team — midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos, defenders Daniel Steres, Julian Araujo and Giancarlo González and forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández — are under contract. But goalkeeper David Bingham, midfielder Perry Kitchen and defender Rolf Feltscher are not, while midfielder Sacha Kljestan and Joe Corona have club options.
Wingers Cristian Pavón and Yony González have loans that expire at the end of the year. Boca Juniors have publicly set Pavón’s price at $20 million — a price the Galaxy won’t pay — but Te Kloese is hopeful a deal can be worked out.
As for Hernández, who cost the team a club-record transfer fee of nearly $10 million last winter, was a bust, starting just seven times and scoring twice. Klein said Hernández admitted he needs to do better.
“He came in and very passionately laid out where he is,” Klein said. “It was a position of responsibility and commitment. Commitment to the club, commitment to me, commitment to our ownership and most of all commitment to his team and the fans.”
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Klein began Wednesday’s teleconference taking the same kind of blame for the Galaxy’s failures.
“I hold my hand up and take responsibility not only for the results that are not up to our standard this year, but for the last couple of years,” he said. “I am spending a great deal of time evaluating myself, evaluating our decisions.
“The responsibility does not fall on a coach. We all have responsibility for this.”
If that sounds familiar, it is. Four years ago, after a 2017 season in which the Galaxy lost 18 games, Klein made the same pledge: “There is accountability, certainly, from top to bottom,” he said then. “And we take responsibility for that.”
Now the Galaxy must also take action if it is to restore the winning culture that’s been lost.
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