Opinion (December 13, 2016) – The LA Galaxy appointed Curt Onalfo as the successor to Bruce Arena this week. Onalfo takes over as head coach after coaching LA Galaxy II for three seasons. He’s been with the organization since 2011. This move signals a clear trend by the Galaxy to maintain continuity in the front office. It could also be an effort to cut costs.
Curt Onalfo Hire Signals Continuity, Economy, And A Youth Movement For LA Galaxy
Onalfo joins Peter Vagenas as front office members with new roles in the club. Vagenas recently took over as General Manager, having spent time assisting Arena in that role this past season. As Vice President of Soccer Operations, he focused heavily on the academy system.
With Onalfo joining him, the two appear primed to begin a youth movement in the Galaxy’s first team. Onalfo has extensive knowledge of all the Los Dos players. He is the ideal coach for picking out the ones who are fit for MLS and getting them into the squad.
The academy has excelled under Vagenas as he developed several new aspects of the academy program. If Arena was the CEO of the Galaxy first team, Vagenas has been the CEO of the academy. The two should be able to identify current players that can be part of the first team now or in the immediate future. Their collaboration could help streamline the path to the first team that was a bottle neck under Arena.
Vagenas also got more involved in the GM decisions that Arena made as the season went along, which is a good sign. Arena may have taught him a lot in 2016.
Players like Jack McBean and Raul Mendiola should be given more first team minutes in 2017. Players like Bradford Jamieson IV, Jose Villareal, and Jaime Villareal now have leadership that is familiar with them. They can put them in position (with Los Dos or otherwise) to grow into first team players more rapidly.
Being More Economical:
Rumors have surfaced that the front office has been encourage by ownership to cut costs or at the very least, operate closer to profitability. Part of that will involve more economical DP signings. There’s a clear reason the Galaxy let Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard go. MLS on a whole is starting to shy away from the European Superstar in their mid 30s.
The Galaxy could be looking to fill their two open DP slots with players who make only $1 million or so.
What is clear, is that the hiring of Onalfo kept the continuity of people who know the inter workings of the club and how they operate. It’s also going to save the club some money. Sigi Schmidt was going to be just as expensive as Arena probably. Going after a current MLS head coach wasn’t going to be cheap either. LA would have to match (at least) their current salary.
Onalfo (and Vagenas) want to be here. In that, it was probably easier to negotiate terms with them. Thus the two of them combined are probably much less expensive than Arena was as both general manager and head coach.
There’s no way to sugar coat it. This was not a big club hire. They didn’t go out and get the biggest name available. They didn’t court a coach from a lesser team that was ready to make the jump. They went for a guy who’s last head coaching stint in MLS had him go 3-12-3 with D.C. United in 2010.
Still, Onalfo’s learned a lot since then. He learned number Arena on coaching just as Vagenas has as general manager. He doesn’t need to be spectacular. The Galaxy have a host or resources at their disposal to help him. They’ve got a good core and some young talent that needs to ripen.
That said, the Galaxy have just one year before Los Angeles Football Club starts play. If Onalfo coaches like the heir apparent to Arena, the Galaxy will be in good shape. If he’s closer to the guy who went 27-29-22 with the Kansas City Wizards, the 2017 LA Galaxy are probably screwed.
I think he’ll do a good job integrating the young players into the squad. I don’t think he’ll make this team as it stands a contender for trophies next year though. Everything this club has done has been signed off ultimately by Arena. Whether Vagenas and Onalfo were involved in moves or not, Arena ultimately had the final say.
These two will need to be able to float without Arena having final say to make this work.