CARSON, Calif. – David Bingham knew his tenure with the San Jose Earthquakes was done last Aug. 12, when Chris Leitch unveiled his starting XI for a game at Houston, and the veteran goalkeeper's name wasn't on it.
Bingham had started 91 straight Major League Soccer games for the Quakes, every single one beginning with the 2015 opener, but there were fundamental changes going on within the team and within the club, and it was clear, he thought, that those changes would not include him.
Six months later, he's with the archrival LA Galaxy, the unquestioned No. 1 in the nets as the league's most-decorated club looks to rebound from its worst-in-MLS showing last season, and he's having a blast.
He saw his first 90 minutes since his final Quakes appearance – a 2-1 win over Columbus at Avaya Stadium last Aug. 5 – in last weekend’s friendly with San Jose. That didn't quite go as he'd hoped, but no problem. Good things, he believes, are on the horizon.
“I was prepared [for the move to the Galaxy],” Bingham told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday morning’s training session at StubHub Center. “I wanted to come here. This was my first choice, and I was lucky enough it worked out and we made it happen.”
Bingham said he felt disrespected by Earthquakes management – and that he wasn't the only player who felt this way.
“I think there's just big differences of opinion between [the club and myself], and we knew it wasn't going to work out,” Bingham said. "And it wasn't just me. There were six other players that are actually full internationals that they got rid of, too, so it was a little surprising. But we kind of knew what was coming.”
The fundamental changes in San Jose started last year with Jesse Fioranelli's appointment as general manager. Dominic Kinnear, now the top assistant coach on Schmid's staff, was dismissed in late June, with the Quakes 6-6-5 and in fifth place in the West.
Leitch came on as interim coach, changed the system and, after six games, changed goalkeepers. Andrew Tarbell, a 2016 draft pick, played the final 11 regular-season games and in the 5-0 knockout-stage loss at Vancouver.
Leitch returned to his role as technical director at season's end, and Fioranelli and his new coach, Swede Mikael Stahre, began retooling the roster in late November. Eight players – including some with previous international experience Victor Bernardez, Cordell Cato and Kip Colvey – departed, Costa Rican star Marco Ureña went to Los Angeles FC in December's Expansion Draft, and Bingham, or the right to first refusal on him, was traded to the Galaxy for $200,000 to $250,000 in allocation money, the total dependent on his performance this season, on Dec. 18.
Bingham says “we were on the same page” on the field, but nowhere else. Talks on a new contract were going nowhere, and he wasn't happy about his demotion.
“Salary played into [our differences], just a general lack of respect played into it, so it was time to move on,” he said. “I don't think it was just me. I think you could ask the other six players that departed, that they all felt pretty similar, and even players [who are still] there.
“[It's about] how they treat you, how they offer you. It's a lack of respect there. To be fair, it's more than just a lack of [respect]. If you've never done it before, it's a learning curve, and some people don’t understand that.”
Bingham said the change in tactics after Kinnear's departure didn't make sense.
“Most of the guys on the team knew that it wasn't the right time, given the position we were in,” he said. “We had just [beaten] Real Salt Lake [and would climb to third with a win the following weekend over the Galaxy], and they wanted to change the whole boat. We ended up going from a [near-] zero goal difference to minus-20 at the end of the year.”
Schmid, who took charge of the Galaxy last July, oversaw a massive roster reconstruction during the offseason, with Bingham one of the key pieces after last year's goalkeepers – Brian Rowe, Clement Diop and Jon Kempin – had been jettisoned. Former Vancouver/Philadelphia netminder Brian Sylvestre is set to back up Bingham, with Galaxy II keeper Justin Vom Steeg likely to be promoted to the first team to fill the No. 3 slot.
“For us, its a good opportunity. It's a great opportunity for David as well,” Schmid said. “He needs to not reestablish himself – he’s shown he's a good goalkeeper – he just needs to get back into good habits and to his confidence level and to his rhythm again. …
“David was a really, really good option for us, and now he's going to get an opportunity to show he's the right guy, and I'm sure he'll do that.”
Bingham struggled in Saturday's 4-2 loss to San Jose in Irvine, letting one ball slip through him into the net and conceding an easy rebound for another. Schmid made it clear afterward that Bingham was the No. 1, that “we're going to be fully supportive of him, and I think he's going to repay us.”
Bingham says he's working at “getting back into the swing of games, getting ready for the MLS play and week-to-week games.” He's happy to be doing it in SoCal.
"You look through the league over time, the Galaxy have always kind of been the pinnacle club,” he said. "It's always been the club to beat in the West, and when you come down to StubHub, you're like, 'Man, this is going to be a hard game.'
“So anytime you hear a club like that is interested in you, you’re definitely excited, and you got to do whatever you can if you want to go to a club like that to make it work. ... It's exciting to finally be on [this team], and I think everyone feels the same about this season, just being pretty optimistic and excited.”