LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney spoke to the media about the pressure he’s feeling to get the club back on track
The LA Galaxy are coming off a 2020 campaign in which they missed the MLS Cup playoffs, fired their head coach, and then overhauled the roster with a dozen new players.
So what did new head coach Greg Vanney, a member of the original Galaxy side in 1996, list as his goal for this season?
“Our goal is to win the championship,” he told reporters Thursday.
Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, considering the apparent state of disarray the Galaxy find themselves in after finishing tied for 10th in the Western Conference with a 6-12-4 record last season and seeing leading scorer Cristian Pavon lost — at least temporarily — as he fights rape charges in his native Argentina. Vanney, however, is firm in his belief regarding his team’s collective determination to move forward.
But he also knows it will take time and plenty of effort.
“The championship is many months away and many games to get there,” he said. “For us, it’s first and foremost being focused on the process of improving every day. Every game we go out to play we’re going to go out with the ambition to win the game. For us we want to be stingy and a good defensive team, especially when we’re on the road.
“Our vision of who we are is not going to change from game one to the last game of the season. Our goal is to win a championship, and to win a championship you’ve got to get in the playoffs. That’s the first step. That’s our ambition.
“We need to keep working every day to set ourselves up with the opportunity. That’s what we’re here for.”
Vanney, who turns 47 in June, and the Galaxy will take the first step toward that lofty goal Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they will take on Inter Miami CF (noon, ABC). The game will mark a reunion of sorts with former Galaxy standout David Beckham, who is part of Inter Miami’s ownership group.
Beckham won MLS Cups with Los Angeles in 2011 and 2012, and Vanney admitted his presence adds extra flair to this weekend’s matchup.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to officially kick things off,” he said. “Obviously against David and their franchise which is another franchise that I believe, in time, will be another outstanding model franchise for our league with the ownership and the knowledge they have over there. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get two very good franchises who are in it to try to be the best on the field together on opening day, which is fun.
“Obviously David’s history here goes without saying … all the things he was able to accomplish here in every way. I’m excited for it. Mostly I’m excited for the opportunity for this group of players who have waited a long time to have their first game this year to a long off-season and long preseason to get out and play a meaningful game for real and get their season started.”
Vanney was asked to compare the emotions he felt as a player preparing for his first regular-season game with the Galaxy in 1996 and now preparing for his first game as its head coach.
“There’s some similarities,” he said. “I would say as a player I was probably a little more nervous, a little more anxious than I am as a coach. I feel we’ve gone through the preparation and we’re in a good spot and ready to start. As a player I think I was probably a little nervous, a little antsy. I was a lot younger and hadn’t had as quite as many experiences as I’ve had now.
“But nevertheless you never take away the butterflies, the excitement of just starting a new journey and a new season and a new opportunities.”
He clearly relishes what he has in Los Angeles and appears oblivious to the inherent pressure of trying to revive a once-proud franchise. He said it’s no different than what he felt in Toronto, which never had a winning record prior to his arrival and won a precedented triple (MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship) in 2017 under his direction.
“For me personally, I feel it’s the same pressure,” Vanney said. “The pressure for me always is to win championships, to win trophies. To push our franchise to the top. We’re all still defining ourselves at the highest level, so that’s our ambition every day. That was the ambition in Toronto, and now here in L.A.
“Every day we approach with that goal and that ambition in mind. My energy and focus is on that, trying every day to keep pushing the Galaxy franchise forward. I will always put the most amount of pressure on myself more than anyone can put on me.”
Vanney said he and the Galaxy can’t wait for Sunday. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and an off-season filled with so much uncertainty haven’t dimmed their enthusiasm for the season to begin.
“I think guys are grateful and happy to have a season in front of them, to get things started, to know there’s going to be some fans, and some energy in the stadium,” he said. “Guys have missed playing games and they’re excited to just get going, to have something meaningful, to have a purpose behind this preseason.
“Our group from a mental health standpoint is in a very good spot. they’re excited about where we are and where we’re headed. We’re still in the beginning phases of that. We’ve kind of hit the ground running in many ways.
“Just to have purpose every weekend as we look forward to these real games, and to have fans back in the stands, guys are extremely excited about the prospects for this season.”