The LA Galaxy announced, via a conference call, today that Pete Vagenas would become the new General Manager of the team. But LA Galaxy President Chris Klein also dropped some other hints as to what the future may bring for this team. So let’s look at three things we learned from the Q and A session.
ONE! The LA Galaxy signed Bruce Arena to a two-year contract extension prior to his deal expiring at the end of this year. That means the Galaxy locked up Bruce Arena’s talents through the end of the 2018 season. Bruce’s contract extension did NOT include an “out clause.” The LA Galaxy basically had to release Bruce Arena to the USMNT. But they were under no obligation to do so. So it was a front office decision to allow Arena to move across the hall to US Soccer.
But realistically, could you have kept Arena and still had him be happy? The Galaxy organization has usually gone out of their way to release people/players who weren’t happy or who needed to move on. So if the LA Galaxy were to stay consistent with their operating standards, letting Arena go play hero to the USMNT was really the only choice.
TWO! The LA Galaxy are looking at both internal and external candidates. And Chris Klein confirmed that they have reached out to their only internal candidate, Curt Onalfo. Curt is the current Head Coach with LA Galaxy II and is also an LA Galaxy Assistant Coach. But there are also some external candidates. Sigi Schmid was mentioned by one reporter and Klein said that he “I’m not going to comment on some candidates,” but he went on to say that they haven’t spoken yet and that his history with the club and the league suggest he’s a guy that should be considered.
If you’re trying to hedge your bets you’d expect that Klein and Vagenas will speak to Schmid. But they should also talk to guys like Caleb Porter, Gregg Berhalter, and perhaps some other MLS Coaches. But Klein did reiterate that they would more than likely speak to at least one international candidate and that the Galaxy have been contacted by people from around the globe. Both names most would know and names you’ve never heard of.
The one person who has been excluded from the search is former LA Galaxy Associate Head Coach, Dave Sarachan. And Dave was probably the leading candidate in my mind. Whatever happened, and however it ended up the Galaxy are excluding a knowledgeable person with the continuity that they sought in a General Manager. But Dave Sarachan is out. This will be something people will point out constantly in 2017 if the LA Galaxy falter in any way with their head coaching decision.
THREE! Klein mentioned in one of his responses that the “entire back line” would be returning. Before you get too excited, let’s talk about what that could mean. The entire backline could mean that all the starters will be returning for 2017. So if you were one of the people who was concerned with Jelle Van Damme and his future, I think you can relax. But we’ve told you that before.
This probably means that Robbie Rogers, Daniel Steres, and Ashley Cole are returning for next year. But I still have question marks about a soon-to-be 36-year-old defender making about $300k coming back for another season. It’s not that Cole played badly in 2016, on the contrary, but as the Galaxy learned in 2016 with Robbie Keane, an aging body can break down very quickly. And if you wanted to bring back DeLaGarza, Rogers, Van Damme and Steres, you’d be on the right track and you’d be saving some cash in the process.
But that leaves us with AJ DeLaGarza and whether or not he falls into the “entire back line” comment. He’s wasn’t a starter — at least according to Bruce Arena’s lineups down the stretch for the Galaxy in 2016. Is his return a sure thing? By all accounts, he’s under contract. But with the Expansion Draft quickly approaching, will DeLaGarza get protected?
Klein also mentioned that they were building the team around “Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget, Jelle Van Damme and our entire back line.” So if you’re looking for a philosophy change, I’m not sure you got the 100% switch to “youth.” But you did get a spine for the LA Galaxy that could be very, very interesting in 2017.
THE END! The LA Galaxy now must work feverishly to find a head coach that ticks off all the boxes (cough Gregg Berhalter). And with the expansion draft coming up, a head coach would be great to have onboard to start to make these decisions with newly minted General Manager Pete Vagenas. But the clock is absolutely ticking.
Minnesota United is announcing their Head Coach on November 29th and Sporting KC might be locking up Peter Vermes for the long term. That would basically eliminate two possible coaches from the LA Galaxy’s pool. And while it was unlikely that either of those coaches were ones the Galaxy had their eye on, there really aren’t that many qualified candidates to choose from.
Chris Klein is hopeful that they’ll have a Head Coach by the beginning of the year (January 1st, 2017). A seemingly aggressive timetable that probably still needs to be completed before that if you want a Head Coach who feels like his team will be playing in 2017.