As the LA Galaxy joined clubs around MLS in kicking off their 2021 preseason on Monday, it represented the dawn of a new era for one of the league's most decorated clubs.
Monday's was the first training session under new head coach Greg Vanney, who was brought in this offseason with the goal of turning around a club that just endured one of the worst seasons in its storied history. A former standout for the Galaxy on the field, Vanney came to LA after a phenomenal run with Toronto FC that saw him help build the Reds into an Eastern Conference powerhouse and an MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield winner.
Speaking to reporters on a Monday video call after training, Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget said that Vanney's imprint on the team is already evident, even with his tenure in its early days.
"It's honestly been really, really good," Lletget said. "It's like a breath of fresh air. He's definitely trying to shift the culture of this club and instill his philosophy and create an identity for this club. So far, really good. It's only day one but I'm definitely really excited to keep working with him and everybody else involved.
"I think we are assembling a very good team. I think, more importantly, we're going to have an identity and we know what we're going to be doing on the field. I think that's going to be huge for us. Whoever is on the field, I don't know if we're signing anybody else if this is going to be the team, there's a lot of question marks. But even if this was the team, I'm very, very confident and I'm really, really excited for it."
Vanney said he's been encouraged thus far at how his players have come in at high fitness levels and were able to hit the ground running, adding that he doesn't necessarily view the current roster as a finished product.
"As far as where we are with needs, we have a lot of opportunity to continue to add to our group," Vanney said. "I look at our group now, we have some really veteran players and we have some young players, and we need to fill the space in the middle both positionally but also just in terms of our roster in terms of age and experience and where people are in their career and different things, we want to build out that side of things as well. So we're pushing forward and hopefully some things can get done here soon and announced."
One situation that's still in limbo is the status of winger Cristian Pavon, one of the best attacking players in the league for the last two seasons. The 25-year-old Argentine saw his loan from Boca Juniors expire at the end of last season and is currently back with the Buenos Aires giantsl, but Vanney said on Monday that the club is still hopeful Pavon will be back.
"It's still a very open situation," Vanney said. "I feel like, again, it's one of those situations that's sitting there on the edge. It just needs to get tipped over the edge, whatever that piece is that will tip it over the edge and we can get moving forward, it feels like it's right there and it's just been sitting there for a week or so. He obviously had surgery which is a good step forward for him just as a professional. It's incredible what they got out of his ankles, I can't imagine what it felt like for him to play. From that side of things I think he's making progress and moving forward in terms of health.
"We're optimistic that it can get pushed over the edge. At the same time, as the guy who's been sitting here waiting, we have to consider what does life look like if we can't get this over the edge and we need to be considering that. But I'm still hopeful that we can get it done."