Despite leading Major League Soccer's overall standings with eight games left in the season, the Los Angeles Galaxy made the surprise move of dismissing head coach Sigi Schmid Monday.
"This is not an easy decision," said Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton. "It's certainly not the least controversial decision. We're sitting at the top of the table, and I'm saying, 'It's not good enough.'"
Assistant coach Martin Vasquez and the rest of the club's technical staff will oversee the team until a new coach can be found. Yet Hamilton intimated that the naming of a new head coach may not be far off. "You'll notice I haven't named anyone the interim," he said.
During a conference call Monday afternoon, Hamilton refused to discuss specific candidates, but left open the possibility that the next Galaxy coach could come from either inside or outside the organization. Hamilton said he expects there to be a lot of interest for what he referred to as "the most prestigious club coaching position in the U.S."
Hamilton pointed out that after Saturday's game against the Chicago Fire, the team has a two-week break before its next league game, allowing a new coach some time to get acclimated to the position.
Whoever the new coach is, Hamilton said there must be improvement in the team's results. Though the Galaxy lead the league with 34 points from nine wins and seven draws in 22 games, the team has won just three times in its last 10 league games, scoring nine goals during that span.
Hamilton said his ongoing evaluation of the team's play led him and the club to make the coaching change. He added that style of play was a factor in the decision.
"Our mission statement clearly states that we want to compete for and win championships," he said. "We think we're capable of doing it in a very attractive way, and frankly, I think we proved that early on in the year. We went the first 13 games of this season without being shut out. It's that sort of play that enabled us to rack up some points. That's what we need to get back to."
Hamilton brushed aside suggestions that the parity in MLS may be to blame for the fact that the Galaxy have not been able to break away from the pack, saying he wants the Galaxy to set the standard for MLS teams. He said he thinks the Galaxy players will meet the challenge laid down by Schmid's dismissal, adding that a team meeting was scheduled for later Monday afternoon to discuss the immediate future of the club.
Schmid was notified of the club's decision during a lunch Monday with Hamilton, and according to Hamilton, Schmid was disappointed with the decision, but respected it nonetheless. During the conference call, Hamilton applauded Schmid's accomplishments throughout his career.
"He wanted to see this thing through ... He's a very competitive guy, so he wanted a chance at that. I'll always respect him for that," Hamilton said. "He has consistently demonstrated the ability to win, and he will surely be given an opportunity to coach in this league again. We wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Schmid, who took the helm of the Galaxy when Octavio Zambrano was let go five games into the 1999 season, guided the Galaxy to three championships in his four-plus seasons with the club.
In just his second year with the team, he led his charges to the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup, and the club took home the U.S. Open Cup the following season. In 2002, the team ended six years of MLS Cup frustration, winning their first league title in their fourth visit to the final.
Schmid led the Galaxy to three first-place finishes in the Western Conference and three of their four MLS Cup appearances. His 16 MLS Cup playoff victories rank first all-time among MLS coaches, while his .579 regular season winning percentage ranks fifth among those who have coached at least half of a season. His 79 regular season victories also rank fifth all-time.
Schmid joined the Galaxy after a long, successful coaching career at UCLA, where he guided the Bruins to a 322-63-33 record and three NCAA Championships. He also guided the U.S. under-20 men's national team to the round of 16 at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championships.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.