Galaxy Still Suffering from Disease

The LA Galaxy have fired head coach Curt Onalfo

and hired former Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid to take over the remainder of the season.  After posting a 6-10-4 record and sitting in 9th place in the Western Conference the move is deserved and long overdue.  Although this was a change that was sorely needed and very welcomed, it doesn’t cure the cancer that is currently infecting the Galaxy: the front office.  

Make no mistake, 9th place is not where anybody imagined the Galaxy would be after 20 games, including Galaxy President Chris Klein and General Manager Pete Vagenas.  However, it is no secret that most fans believe that it was them who put the Galaxy in that position to begin with and not necessarily Curt Onalfo.  Yes, Onalfo was underqualified for the position, and yes, his head coaching record was par at best, but that didn’t stop Klein or Vagenas from appointing him to the position.  As if hiring a subpar coach wasn’t enough, the front office failed to give Onalfo the tools he needed to have a chance at success. The front office failed to sign any sort of depth on the roster, instead deciding to rely on their youth program which was definitely not ready.  The front office will argue that a ridiculous amount of injuries was the reason for so many losses, which is partially true, but the plan was always to use the Galaxy 2 players when they were needed.  Well, they were certainly needed, and it proved that the backup plan was a horrible one.   Onalfo essentially was given a knife to bring to a gun fight.  Sure, a more skilled and talented person might be able to be successful with what was given to them, but it’s still not a good strategy to leave your soldier unarmed.  

The front office did make some signings during the offseason though.  They signed 3, actually.  Romain Alessandrini, Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro were all introduced before the season started.  It’s too bad only one has been great while the other had to wait until the 3rd signing inevitably went down with injury to be good.  It seemed like everybody knew that signing Jermaine Jones was a liability except the 2 people that mattered the most.  With only 3 signings added to an already young and thin roster before the season started, an injury to any one of these players would’ve put the Galaxy right back at square one.  And with Jones at a high risk for injury already, this plan was doomed from the beginning.  However, with only 3 signings and only 1 player used as a DP, the Galaxy still had room for one more game changing acquisition midseason should they need it.  The front office struck out on that front as well.  Failing to sign Dario Benedetto, Javier Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andre-Pierre Gignac, all of which play a position that the Galaxy desperately needed, they instead signed Jonathan dos Santos.  Though he is a very skilled and talented player, a midfielder was not what the Galaxy were looking for or needed and therefore the signing seemed to be more desperation and marketing rather than improving the team.  This again falls on the front office for their lack of vision and disastrous plan.

This plan, by the way, is still full speed ahead.  The philosophy of youth and cost cutting still remains, and the signing of a new coach does not change that.  In fact, hiring Sigi Schmid as head coach seems to fit the cost cutting narrative.  I agree that his pedigree, history and resume far exceeds that of Curt Onalfo’s but the fact of the matter is that there were better and “sexier” choices out there.  Bob Bradley was definitely available, as LAFC clearly demonstrated, but the cost would’ve been too much for the Galaxy.  A cost that they definitely could afford to be sure.  The same youthful players remain on the roster, so a coaching change won’t affect that, at least not until next season.  Sigi might do better with a knife than Onalfo did, but a new philosophy and front office might give him the guns he needs.

The bottom line is that even with a coaching change, the Galaxy are still plagued by the moves that are made from an incompetent front office.  Rather than to take responsibility, they remain stubborn and use excuses to explain their shortcomings.  A coaching change is a step in the right direction, and historically there is usually an uptick in performance, record and morale when a new coach takes charge.  But the fact is that the roster still lacks the players needed to be serious contenders for MLS Cup.  Cost cutting and smarter business can certainly be successful but you need the right personnel to pull it off.  Although, I admit, that only half a season is far too small of sample size, I can still say with enough confidence that Klein and Vagenas aren’t the right men for the job.  Changes at the top must be made if the Galaxy are to be the perennial power it once was and that fans have grown accustomed to.

The LA Galaxy 2017 Preview

by Luis Baron

The 2017 MLS season is upon us and the Galaxy are ready to begin their long journey towards the playoffs and MLS Cup.

After a turbulent offseason, which saw many veterans retire, fan favorites traded, fresh new talent being signed and young talent called up to the senior team, the Galaxy roster is now set for what should be a roller coaster season.  However, not everything has gone according to plan and the season has yet to start.  Let’s break down this year’s Galaxy team.

Let’s begin with the team’s depth.  There isn’t any.  Unlike last year’s team that had a solid bench filled with players that could start on other teams around the league, this year’s bench is filled with young players unproven at the MLS level.  Any sort of injury to a starter would handicap the team immensely.  Unfortunately, this has already happened and the effects are showing.  The team will start the season without Gyasi Zardes, who hasn’t played with the Galaxy since last August, Robbie Rogers, who is out for an undisclosed amount of time, and Ashley Cole, all of whom are injured.  

The backline was the Galaxy’s biggest strength last season.  They allowed the 2nd fewest goals in 2016 behind only Colorado.  The same starting back 4 would return this season making it the less of a focal pointin the offseason.  However, with 2 of those 4 injured to start the season, the defense is now the weakest part of this Galaxy squad.  Rafael Garcia will start the season at right back, a position he is still learning after playing defensive mid for most of his career.  Dave Romney will fill in for Cole at left back but he doesn’t have too much experience at this level.  This makes Jelle van Damme and Daniel Steres that much more important this season.  Daniel Steres will have to have a better season than he did last year and Van Damme needs to repeat his MVP-like performance of last year for the Galaxy to stay within striking distance in any given game.  Brian Rowe returns as goalie and will be the last line of defense.  With such an inexperienced and untested backline, he will have plenty of action this season and will be called upon to come up with big saves more often.

Going into the offseason, the midfield was the weakest part of the team, but after signing Jermaine Jones, Romain Alessandrini, and Joao Pedro, the midfield is now the strongest part with the most depth.  Alessandrini will provide some much needed spark in the offense, while Joao Pedro will act as the enforcer and holder in the back.  Jermaine Jones can do both as the box to box man.  The final starting midfielder is Sebastian Lletget who will play out wide and is expected to have a superb season.  Should any of these guys go down, Ema Boateng, Baggio Husidic, and Raul Mendiola are capable of picking up the slack.  With the exception of Jones, all the midfielders are young and athletic.

It’s a sharp contrast to what we had last season and expect a lot more quickness moving up and down the pitch.

Up front, Giovanni dos Santos will be expected to continue where he left off last season.  With Robbie Keane no longer on the team and Gyasi Zardes out with injury, Gio will be the primary target going forward.  He will need to prove this season that he is the go-to guy for goals and might bear the burden of having to carry the team on his back when the big moments arise.  Ariel Lassiter and Jack Mcbean will finally get their shots with the first team.  However, with so little experience at this level, expectations should be down to a minimum.  5-7 goals for either one should be considered a success and would take some of the pressure off Gio.  

At the end of the day, the one guy who is responsible for how the team performs is head coach Curt Onalfo.  His hiring was lackluster at best, and many fans are skeptical about how the team may perform with him at the helm. His 2 previous stints as an MLS head coach were mediocre at best and he was unable to win a championship in USL as a head coach for Galaxy II.   Sadly, Onalfo is already on the hot seat with many fans who will be looking for any reason to criticize him and ask for his firing.  The front office however, seems to have all the confidence in the world in Onalfo and are “all in” for the foreseeable future.  Onalfo is going to need to have a heck of a season to win the fans over. He certainly has his work cut out for him as the lack of depth and a list of injuries are already working against him.  Fans will need to be patient before they can truly judge his and the team’s performance.

The Galaxy and it’s fans are going to have a very turbulent roller coaster type ride this season.  It will surely have it’s highs and lows.

The key word this season will be patience, which unfortunately, fans have very little of as it is.  The MLS season is 7 months long and is more of a marathon rather than a sprint.  Starting off slow doesn’t hurt the Galaxy, who will need some time to regain some of their injured starters.  So what should we expect this team to do this year?  It may be very difficult to accept, that 2017 is a rebuilding year and accepting that and adjusting expectations is the first step.  Yes, the Galaxy are the premier team of the league, but every so often, a team overhaul is needed.  For the Galaxy, that time is now.  However, that’s not to say that the Galaxy are doomed to fail this season.  When healthy, the Galaxy have the talent to compete against any team in the league.  If all cylinders are firing come August, and if the injury bug decides to take a vacation, the Galaxy may surprise many of us.  If the last couple MLS seasons have showed us anything, it’s that peaking at the right time is vital to winning a championship.  Let’s hope the Galaxy can get their act together before it’s too late.