Editorial (November 7, 2018) – Yesterday, the LA Galaxy terminated Vice President of Soccer Operations Pete Vagenas. With that, Galaxy President Chris Klein how now parted ways with every significant person hired on the technical side of the club in the post-Bruce Arena era.
Pete Vagenas Out: Chris Klein has no scapegoats left at LA Galaxy
This firing came as a relief to Galaxy supporters. Vagenas took the significant blame, and rightfully so, for the failures of the 2017 season, the worst in club history in many respects. He was then demoted from General Manager back to just his previous role of PV of Soccer Operations last off-season.
Vagenas orchestrated a number of poor moves in his time in the Galaxy front office and even when the (also departed) Sigi Schmidt took over personnel decisions, the two feuded. The stench of how far Pete Vagenas let the Galaxy fall still lingers, but he is gone.
The only person left is Club President Chris Klein (with the foregone assumption that Interim Head Coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff will not be returning). The firing of Vagenas means Klein has no one left to blame. He’s parted ways with two coaches in two years. He’s shuffled around staff within the organization. Pretty much everyone he’s hired since the end of the 2015 season when Arena left has been fired or “mutually agreed to part ways.”
The front office has scapegoated their last two coaching hires. In media availability, Klein has deflected, made excuses, and done everything except take responsibility. Firing Vagenas must have taken some pride swallowing. It should be a net positive for the Galaxy, but it also means Klein has no one left to fire to save himself or save face with the club and the fans.
There’s a lot that needs to be done this off-season. A new head coach and general manager need to be hired (possibly in series or parallel, possibly the same person). Yesterday, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he was optimistic about returning to the club next year, despite rumblings of interest from Europe, off-season loan rumors, and his potential desire for a pay raise in 2019.
Unless Ibrahimovic sits happy with his current $1.5 million TAM contract, decisions with massive implications will have to be made this off-season. If Ibrahimovic leaves, this team is significantly worse and the Galaxy will need to act well with limited financial resources. If Ibrahimovic gets a DP contract (which Klein has not ruled out), one of the current Galaxy DPs will need to move.
Romain Alessandrini is a great value and wants to return. Giovani dos Santos has been unproductive and on the outside appears completely disinterested in playing soccer and his salary accounted for a third of the Galaxy’s payroll in 2018. His brother Jonathan had a good second half of the season but they might be a package deal.
The Galaxy could be looking at selling off one of their productive stars to keep the other while simultaneously keeping one of the least productive players (based on salary) in club history.
The success or failure of these decisions and many others will depend on the quality of the people making those decisions. Klein will be directly choosing those people. Their success or failures in 2019 will ultimately be a reflection of him.
Past performance suggests fans should be skeptical. And Klein stands alone having fired everyone around him, the same people he hand-selected in years past. Ironically, his best option might be to bring back Arena and get out of the way.