Opinion (December 6, 2016) – It has been two weeks since Bruce Arena was announced as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. Since then, the LA Galaxy still have not announced a new head coach. They’ve got a new general manager though. So what’s up with their coaching search? Let’s break it all down.
LA Galaxy Coaching Search: Why Is It Taking So Long
President Chris Klein has made it clear that the Galaxy are going to go through a thorough search for their next head coach. They’ve already interviewed Curt Onalfo internally. They’re trying to speak to at least one current MLS head coach. The club also said they’ll interview at least one international candidate. Then there’s Sigi Schmidt, who’s still unemployed.
The Galaxy need to make a decision soon, with the Expansion Draft and SuperDraft fast approaching. The new coach should also have a say in the next two DP signings.
Onalfo Is Probably The Backup Plan:
A number of coaching names within the league have been thrown around as possible candidates. Peter Vermes is no longer available. Other than Greg Vanney, who’ll be coaching in MLS Cup with Toronto FC, everyone’s season is over. In theory, the club could be contacting other clubs to get permission to speak with other coaches.
With two weeks gone, they’ve probably spoken to every club that has a coach they’re interested in. They’ve either been granted or denied permission. Then they’ve spoken with the prospective candidates.
The front office knows Onalfo as well (or better) than they’ll know any other candidate. The fact that they didn’t immediately hire him shows their checking all their options. The fact that time has gone by and still they haven’t picked him suggests he’s not the first choice.
He’s done a good job with LA Galaxy II the past few years, but none of his MLS head coaching stints were stellar performances. Onalfo certainly isn’t the sexy pick for a team trying to be MLS’s super club. This wait time clearly shows he wasn’t the man in waiting behind Arena. He might be the backup plan if no other options come through.
Existing MLS Coaches Might Be Slim Pickings:
With Vermes no longer an option, there’s no obvious qualifies candidate in the pool of current MLS head coaches. One of the names floated out there has been Greg Berhalter. While he had a good 2015 with the Columbus Crew, this season was a disaster. The club missed the playoffs and never really got on a good run of form. One could wonder if they ever got over the loss in MLS Cup. Even more, did they get over how they lost MLS Cup?
Then there was the whole locker room blow up with Kei Kamara. Berhalter can’t be blamed for all of this year’s failings or what happened with Kamara. But on some level, he failed big time in 2016 with locker room management and not getting the Crew over the hump.
There are a number of other coaches who are former LA Galaxy players/part of the Arena coaching tree. Dave Sarachan just left the organization but will not be considered for the job. Jesse Marsch is doing a great job on a budget with the New York Red Bulls. Vanney and Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids, though technically out of contract right now) both played under Arena for club and country.
There are also rumblings about Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers) and Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas).
All of these coaches could succeed in LA given the resources that will be available to them. That said, they all have flaws. Marsch can’t seem to get his team over the hump in the playoffs. He’s also clearly trying to build something and might be too invested in the project to want to leave it.
Vanney and Mastroeni didn’t really have head coaching success until 2016. Vanney’s been gifted all the resources in the world by Toronto and is only now competing for a trophy. He’s certainly been learning on the job. Mastroeni did a lot with a little in Colorado, but he’s no tactical genius. He’s also yet to deal with a locker room full of egos. He could have three (or more) in LA. How he’ll deal with that is unknown.
In the four years Porter has coached in MLS, his team has missed the playoffs twice. Yes, he won MLS Cup last year by getting his team to peak at the right time. But without that MLS Cup, his time in Portland is pretty average.
Pareja probably has everything the Galaxy would be looking for. He knows how to develop youth and get quality out of academy players. The Galaxy have lots of young kids who haven’t been able to crack the first team yet. He’s got an eye for foreign talent. LA is one of the few clubs that hasn’t gotten diamonds in the rough out of South and Central America. Pareja’s also won before, with two trophies this season.
That said, like Marsch, he’s building a project in Dallas. They still haven’t won an MLS Cup and he could be too emotionally invested in that to leave it right now. He also has yet to have a big name DP walk into the locker room, so he like Mastroeni, it’s unclear how he’ll build a report with a locker room with three big name DPs. He could even oppose big money/name DPs philosophically.
All of these coaches could succeed with the Galaxy. They all also have flaws or qualities that could see them fail. There’s no perfect and obvious candidate out there of the bunch.
The Longer It Goes Without Being Schmidt, The Less Likely It Seems:
Whether you like him or not, Schmidt is the most experienced candidate out there for the Galaxy. He’s coached there before. He’s won a bunch of trophies. He’s dealt with a pressure cooker job before with Seattle Sounders. His biggest weakness might be that he can’t beat Arena head-to-head. Now Arena isn’t coaching in the league, potentially making it easier for him to win when he’s at a team with resources.
The thing is, Schmidt’s the easiest guy (other than Onalfo) mentioned above for the Galaxy to get a hold of. He’s unemployed, so there’s no roadblocks to talking to him. If they’re at all interested in hiring him, they’ve spoken to him.
The fact that it’s been two weeks means one of two things: he doesn’t want the job or the Galaxy aren’t that interested. Like Onalfo, the longer the Galaxy go without announcing him as the head coach, the less likely it seems that he’ll get the job.
A few Liga MX coaches have been floated out there as well. While it would potentially make Giovani dos Santos happy and make it easier to recruit other Mexican stars, I think it’d be a bad move to go international right now. Foreign coaches have a bad record in this league, especially when they don’t know all the weird and intricate rules.