'Family' man Lalas happy to be home
On one of his first days on the job, Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas caught the tail end of the Galaxy's training session on Friday.
He scanned players and coaches who suddenly have to answer to him, the reality of which seemed to strike Lalas later in the day.
"It's amazing. I have players who I have personal relationships with. I've gone to weddings. I've played with them. I've played against them. In some cases traded them," Lalas said. "There are all these incredible connections
I have. But the fact is that even though I have all these relationships with players, I have a job to do and they understand that."
Lalas, along with Galaxy coach Steve Sampson and assistant general manager Tom Payne, met with a group of invited guests at The Home Depot Center's Stadium
Club restaurant. Lalas discussed his new job responsibilities as Payne, who has been on the job for less than one month, also talked about the Galaxy's
vision under Lalas.
A former Galaxy defender, several of Lalas' former Galaxy teammates are still on the club but despite his feelings off the field for any player, Lalas is most concerned about the team.
"I might like you as a person, I might think you're the best person in the world but if you're not doing it on the field, if you're not adding anything to this team, to this organization, we will make changes," Lalas said.
"That's not an easy thing to say but that is my job."
Sampson has also had a shift in his own job responsibilities. A year ago, Sampson said it was made clear to him that the most important thing was to win championships. But in one week under Lalas, Sampson said he now understands that it is more than that.
"It is not good enough any longer just to win championships. We want to put out a product on that field where every single day our fans feel like we're giving the very best possible," Sampson said. "It has not escaped me, the
importance of us playing well and how it relates to making money for this club. I'm not a happy man when we're not consistent."
Lalas has stated repeatedly the importance of providing an entertaining and consistent club from April through November. In order to do that, Lalas said the Galaxy must raise their level across the board, both on and off the field.
"We have to elevate our level. We have to elevate the individual players that we have. Off the field, we're selling soccer and we have to make sure that we have as many people in this stadium as possible," Lalas said. "One
thing leads to another: The better team you have, the more people want to buy tickets for."
The on-the-field part of the job might seem a natural progression for Lalas. The longtime national team defender played for four different Major League Soccer clubs. He played on championship teams and last-place teams and
likely knows from a player's perspective what it takes to win in MLS.
Since taking his first front-office job with San Jose in 2004, Lalas has been brushing up the other part of his job.
"There is the soccer side of my job and there is the business side of the job. Part of my education over the past three years has been to learn much more about the business side of the job and I'm not there yet but I have
good people around me," Lalas said.
One of those people, Lalas said, was Payne, who has been with the club since 2003. Payne, recently promoted from vice president of programming and business development, said that Lalas was instilling a family atmosphere within the club.
"Alexi in a day and a half has literally stated 10 times that this is a family, from the players to the staff to the alumni," Payne said.
Payne has proven valuable already and will continue to do so, Lalas said.
"Part of what I believe is important in a family -- and this is a family -- is the ability to learn from each other," Lalas said. "I can teach Tom stuff and guess what he can teach me a whole lot of stuff about the Galaxy and
about the business of the Galaxy."
Ultimately, the former Galaxy star said returning to the club was the best decision.
"This is as much of a home as I've ever felt, even when I played here," Lalas said. "For me and my family, this was a wonderful opportunity. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to finish the job in New York and I
wish the Red Bulls all the luck in the world, but the fact is that this opportunity to lead this club, especially what it means to me personally, was something that I certainly couldn't pass up."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.