Opinion (April 27, 2017) – I’m going to assume most people reading this are hate reading it and/or are ready to come after me in the comments section. This column is not a defense of Galaxy Head Coach Curt Onalfo. He has done a poor job. I am not arguing that he should be kept. This is an argument why he will be kept on.
It’s two fold: Firing Onalfo would be admission by the front office staff that they got the off-season wrong. It could also indicated further heads rolling higher up due to the failures of the regime change.
Why LA Galaxy Will Not Fire Curt Onalfo: Front Office Backlash And Abandoning The Plan
Let’s make a few things clear. The Galaxy’s coaching search this winter started and ended with Onalfo being the obvious choice to everyone involved. In the press conference where they announced Onalfo as the new manager, President Chris Klein said “it became very clear on that Curt was going to be the right next person to lead us,” adding that “he was the obvious and the best choice.”
Poor Reflection On The Front Office:
This was the most critical decision going into the 2017 season (knowing that the third DP probably wasn’t coming till the summer). Everyone in the front office made it seem like Onalfo was the slam dunk choice.
The Galaxy have had a lot of issues in this young season. Giovani dos Santos is struggling. The midfield is a clown fire. The young defenders are going through some growing pains. Say Klein and General Manager Peter Vagenas sack Onalfo now and use him as a scapegoat. Then should they not be blamed for the decision to hire Onalfo? After all, they said it was obvious and an easy decision a few months ago.
Firing Onalfo would be an admission by the front office that they got that coaching hire wrong. Or that their philosophy change (spending less, getting younger) was a poor decision. Or that he’s not the right guy for this roster, which could then lead to questions about how this roster was put together (namely Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro not working out).
All of these lead back to the front office being incompetent on some level. It shows they’re a shell of themselves without Bruce Arena. By choosing not to react emotionally to recent events, the front office would be acting in self-preservation.
Abandoning The Long Term Plan:
With the exception of the Jermaine Jones signing, this off-season signaled a clear change in the Galaxy. They went young. The academy kids were going to get a chance to make the first team and get serious minutes. Their two big international signings, Pedro and Romain Alessandrini, were both in their twenties. No more huge contracts. No more aging Europeans.
Onalfo was clearly the best choice to execute that vision. He’s been a part of the organization for years. He coached LA Galaxy II since their inception. Together, he and Vagenas know the academy better than anyone.
If they go with the conniption that Galaxy Twitter is having from three home losses, who are the going to get? To win this year, Sigi Schmidt and Bob Bradley are both available and could be excellent hires. But if you’re going for the long run, the youth movement, who do you hire?
Mike Muñoz has done a good job as Academy Director, but he’s nowhere near ready to take over an MLS team. There really isn’t a good candidate for the “let’s get our Homegrowns to make up half the first team and be contributors within two years” plan. So if you fire Onalfo months into the job, that plan dies, or at least gets put on hold a few years.
That would be a vote of doubt in the academy. The academy that the front office has propped up for years. The academy that AEG has pored money into. That many pundits put as one of the best in MLS but also point out that has trouble getting players into the first team. If Onalfo can’t get the kids to succeed in MLS, who can?
I have to wonder if this all comes down to expectations. This is the LA Galaxy. They’re supposed to be the super club of MLS. Super clubs don’t rebuild. If the front office had started this season by saying there would be growing pains, that they were going for the long play, that they might not win in 2017, would that have diffused the pressure on Onalfo?
If the front office fires Onalfo now, they might be able to salvage 2017. But unless that new coach believes in the academy model for the long term, previous investments in the academy could end up being a wasted expense. Is saving this season worth that? Will it be worth it come 2019 and 2020?
Those are just some of the questions the Galaxy front office need answers to.