POINT: Life Without Leiweke

In June, Tim Leiweke made headlines for something other than bringing a famous athlete stateside when he mysteriously parted ways with AEG and joined Canada’s Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owners of Toronto FC. It is speculated that Leiweke simply became too aggressive of a salesman for his long-time employer. Suddenly, the Galaxy found itself without the man who brought David Beckham and Robbie Keane to Los Angeles. A poor season for Toronto FC propelled the club’s history of underachievement and briefly eclipsed just how major of an acquisition Tim Leiweke was for MLSE. That was before the 2014 off-season. Now with the signings of star Englishman Jermaine Defoe, America’s talented Michael Bradley, and Brazil’s legendary keeper Júlio César, Toronto has shed its underdog reputation and is entering the season as one of the league’s most anticipated opponents. With these signings, Galaxy fans were reminded of just how important Tim Leiweke was to the landscape of Los Angeles sports.

“We’re never going to replace Tim Leiweke with Tim Leiweke, but having said that, I said this year we’re not going to replace David Beckham. We’re going to move on. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we’re charged to do.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager

This is old news, right? Not exactly. Watching the friendly with FC Shirak last Saturday, I came to this realization: the Galaxy has completely changed the way it handles the signing of players since the departure of Leiweke. Sure, Samuel scored his first goal and Rob Friend, Stefan Ishizaki, and Raul Mendiola all looked promising in their debuts for the team. Despite this, I just cannot forget that these players are here because the Galaxy’s youth failed to hold the team up last year. While these players may each prove to be great additions to the team, I have to wonder where the Los Angeles Galaxy would be with Tim Leiweke’s known ability to persuade big names. Would Jermaine Defoe be sitting on the beach right now in Santa Monica? Maybe Michael Bradley would be polishing his cranium in Beverly Hills during his weekends.

Los Angeles is a great place to be, especially when you make the fortune of a modern soccer player. When Beckham decided to descend upon the city, many assumed that it was partially influenced by the glamour that accompanies being David Beckham in Los Angeles. Remember how excited your mom was who had never seen a soccer match in her life? David Beckham came, accomplished his mission twice, and left. Thankfully Robbie Keane, another surprise Leiweke signing, remains as an integral part of the Galaxy. Soon after the departure of Becks, Leiweke was gone as well and the Galaxy has not signed a massive name from outside the league since. However places like Seattle, Toronto, and Philadelphia have managed to bring important and recognizable players into their squads.

What has happened in Toronto proves that it’s Tim Leiweke who signs players, not the city he lives in. For example, Cathal Kelly reported that Leiweke used recording artist Drake and Miami Heat star LeBron James to flatter Jermaine Defoe’s mother while she was in Toronto. On a personal note I can’t help but recall a story that Pox, a capo for the Angel City Brigade, told me regarding Leiweke’s ability to appeal to others. At one point emotions were tense between the management of the Galaxy and the Angel City Brigade. On an away trip to Seattle, Leiweke bought some members beer and spoke with them simply to show his appreciation for the supporter culture of the Galaxy. Soon after, Leiweke was running to the capo stand the moment the final whistle was blown at MLS Cup 2011 so he could celebrate with the supporters. I’ve always found Tim Leiweke impressive after hearing this story – it really shows the important people-skills he brings to management.

“He has the amazing ability to keep a lot of balls up the in the air. He only knows one gear, that’s the forward gear, a high-speed gear. He’s very innovative.” Former MLSE president Richard Peddie

Los Angeles has only signed Omar Gonzalez as a designated player since Leiweke’s departure. Part of this signing is defensive – LA’s backline nearly fell apart when Omar was injured during the 2012 season. The other facet of this signing exists in Gonzalez’s potential value after the 2014 World Cup – it is safe to assume that LA plans to sell high on Omar. The fiscal planning in Omar’s signing coupled with the importing of cheap talent this season shows that a new system of management exists within the Galaxy. Without Tim Leiweke using his skills to bring in big players immediately, the Galaxy is now a team that must plan its moves carefully. In a market where the audience demands big names, Los Angeles must now patiently wait for its next star while building a team out of affordable talent.