Editorial (September 11, 2018) – Why do I feel like I’ve written this type of article before? For the second straight season, the LA Galaxy are changing coaches midseason. Yesterday, the club announced that Sigi Schmidt would be departing the club, effective immediately.
Sigi Schmidt Out: LA Galaxy problems run deeper and other thoughts
The Galaxy have had a tumultuous two seasons. Last year was a historically terrible year that saw first-year head coach Curt Onalfo get fired midseason, amid poor roster construction and many young players not ready to compete at the MLS level.
How the heck we got here:
The front office, namely president Chris Klein and then General Manager Peter Vagenas scapegoated Onalfo and their decision to go with young players. They appointed Sigi Schmidt, the winningest head coach in MLS history and in the off-season went back to signing top MLS talent and internationals.
Several misses on defensive signings, some injuries, and Giovanni and Jonathan dos Santos being disinterested in playing and working hard (before and after the World Cup) derailed their season. Schmidt wasn’t able to adjust and shield a weak defense, despite experimenting with personnel and formation.
If it weren’t for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this team probably wouldn’t be sniffing the playoffs.
Does the timing make sense:
The timing of Schmidt’s departure is a bit surprising. He’s out of contract at the end of the season. There are only six games left in the regular season. Presumably, the Galaxy weren’t going to fire him before the end of the season. They’d have to pay him anyways and they could just let his contract run out and not bring him back.
Klein indicated in a conference call yesterday that this was a mutual agreement, but a decision Schmidt made for himself. It was ambiguous how this conversation started and how they came to this agreement though.
Klein: The ‘Sigi should leave’ conversation “wasn’t initiated by one side or the other.”
— Matt Pollard (@LWOSMattPollard) September 10, 2018
Something else has to be at play here. Maybe the Galaxy think the club needed a shake up at head coach and Kinnear can be the shock that gets them into the playoffs. Schmidt came in to try and save the Galaxy last year. Regardless of what went on around him, he ultimately failed. Maybe he was just fed up with the situation and couldn’t bare being at the helm when the ship finally sunk. There have been rumblings about Schmidt’s health being a concern as well.
There’s also the possibility that the Galaxy forced him out and to save face for the club, Schmidt chose to have the announcement be him stepping down rather than him getting fired. Ultimately though, that’s him falling on the sword of Klein and Vagenas, which spares them to an extent at the expense of the club.
Klein and the Galaxy are very good at marketing and spin. We might never get an answer as to how or why this happened, but they haven’t taken blame or responsibility. Schmidt chose to not slam the door and burn bridges on the way out.
What this solves:
MLS has seemed to pass Schmidt by in the MLS 3.0 era. He was an excellent coach in the 2000’s with both the Galaxy and Columbus Crew. He had successes at Seattle Sounders FC but did benefit from one of the highest budgets in the league of that era. Schmidt also benefited from productive Designated Players who produced for their value.
Schmidt hadn’t adjusted to the offensive tactical and talent improvements. He also was responsible for the defensive signings going into this year, most of whom have been busts. Given that Rolf Feltscher has been hurt, I give him the benefit of the doubt.
It’s clear that Schmidt wasn’t going to be able to solve this and perhaps his methods and messages to the players had gotten stale. If nothing else, this could be a wakeup call to everyone else in the organization and the coaching change bump can wake this team up for their final six games.
I doubt it but what else does this team have to lose?
What it doesn’t fix:
Dominic Kinnear takes over as the interim head coach. He and Schmidt are in many ways cut from the same cloth. Both are defensive-minded coaches who had most of their success in MLS 2.0. His last job before joining the Galaxy were three very unsuccessful seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Maybe he has some different ideas Schmidt never tried out. Maybe the locker room needs a different voice. That might help, but the last good season Kinnear had as a manager was 2012. He failed in San Jose in many of the same ways Schmidt did.
At the end of the day, this is still a poorly constructed roster, with an expensive and shambolic defense, and a midfield that’s about as stout as swiss cheese. The three DPs can’t stay healthy. Two of them seem complacent. They’ve got Zlatan, but at the current pace, he’s got to score two goals a game just to have a chance at a result.
The Galaxy’s problems run deeper. Klein and Vagenas have clearly proven in the almost two years since Bruce Arena left that they are out of their depth in running an MLS team. They’ve made poor personnel and financial decisions. They signed the Dos Santos brothers to handcuffing contracts that limited themselves elsewhere and made the team Dos Santos or bust.
They’ve now parted ways with two head coaches in two years, scapegoating Onalfo last year and maintaining confidence this year. All while taking no responsibility or admitting fault for the results on the field.
The Galaxy’s problems run deeper than Giovanni dos Santos, Kinnear, and Schmidt. They stretch from the top to the bottom and many changes are needed for the five-time MLS Cup champions to return to being the super club of MLS.