COG STUDIOS, Calif. – Sigi Schmid’s “resignation” as LA Galaxy head coach earlier this week came as a shock.
Let’s make that very clear.
He certainly wasn’t a perfect manager — his 12-18-12 record since he took over for ousted coach Curt Onalfo in July of 2017 was proof of that – but he was the first coach since Bruce Arena left for the U.S. men’s national team who was allowed to think long-term.
For Schmid, it appeared clear from the get-go that the Galaxy, once considered the crown jewel in Major League Soccer, had been slipping. Arena’s departure depleted the team of all assistant coaches (except for Onalfo) and left gaping holes in the Galaxy’s technical staff.
Schmid immediately saw these shortcomings in scouting – he brought in his son, Kurt Schmid, to bolster those deficiencies – and sports medicine and began to correct those issues.
But with Monday’s announcement that Schmid was leaving – at first of his own volition but later termed in a conference call with team president Chris Klein as a mutual decision between club and coach and, finally, because of rumors of player unrest — the team took another step in reverse in long-term planning, even if there was a strong belief that Schmid wasn’t the right guy for the club.
“We’re not satisfied or happy with where the team is at right now,” Klein elaborated. “Our expectations are much higher than that and we know the responsibility extends beyond just Sigi.”
The Galaxy will be undertaking their third coaching change in as many seasons. They’ll also be implementing their third search for the person they believe is the right one for the job, and all of this will be accomplished by the same front office that already has failed twice and more than likely played a major role in Arena deciding to take the USMNT job.
It’s also the same front office that ran current USMNT interim head coach and former Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan out of the organization. And they’ve since failed with Onalfo (mid-season firing) and Schmid (mid-season replacement).
By all accounts, the Galaxy still are paying off Onalfo’s two-year contract and probably will be paying off Schmid’s deal until the end of the season. With Dominic Kinnear taking over as interim head coach, they’re now paying three coaches.
And for a Galaxy organization that was worried about expenditures in 2017 – a thought process that gave Onalfo a young, undermanned side that finished with the worst record in franchise history – they’ve certainly spent frivolously in regards to coaching.
But the front office, largely seen as being just Klein, is more than that. You have to add former Galaxy players such as Pete Vagenas (Vice President of Soccer Operations) and Jovan Kirovski (Technical Director) and, for the time being, Kurt Schmid (Director of Player Personnel and Scouting). And you have to bring AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman into the conversation as well.
Outside of Kurt Schmid, the others have been through this process before. They supposedly launched a worldwide search in 2016 before eventually settling on Onalfo and were romanticized by Schmid during much of the 2017 season before finally putting him in charge.
Their track record during the last two years has been clear. They ended Onalfo’s run after 20 games and Schmid lasted 42 games before his awkward exit.
And even with superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović and the third-ranked offense in MLS, they’re no longer the most attractive destination for coaches and/or players. Especially with a front office that already has axed or driven away three coaches (Arena, Onalfo, Schmid) in as many seasons.
When they move away from Kinnear, who has not said if he will pursue the position on a permanent basis, they’ll have ousted the top three winningest coaches in MLS (Schmid, Arena, and Kinnear). These are experienced, well-known coaches who, for the most part, have the respect of the entire league but somehow were unable to work with the Galaxy.
If Galaxy owner Phillip Anschutz is watching – and we’re told he’s always watching – is he satisfied the current Galaxy organization is capable of finding, recruiting and landing the best coaching candidate for the Galaxy? And is he sure the Galaxy can provide a new coach, a new general manager or someone occupying both roles, the long-term support to resurrect a once-great franchise?
In my mind, problems have been clearly pointed out by each departing coach. The Galaxy are an organization without a rudder and no clear plan or direction. Repeated mistakes continue to cause the best players and coaches to fall well short of their potential. And the farther this franchise drops, the longer it’s going to take to repair the damage.
The more damage that is inflicted, the farther the Galaxy move from what it felt like to be a championship team. And the farther they fall from an MLS Cup-competing side, the harder it will be to climb back atop an ever-competitive league.
The Galaxy, from 2011-2014, had a habit of winning. After the worst season in franchise history in 2017 and the likelihood they’ll miss the playoffs in 2018 for the second consecutive year, the organization is falling into a different habit, one of mediocrity on the field and an unconvincing mess off of it.