CARSON, Calif. — Dominic Kinnear readily admits that, until Sigi Schmid added him to the LA Galaxy coaching staff last season, he was “no fan” of Major League Soccer's most decorated club.
“I think,” he noted Tuesday, in his first media session as LA's interim head coach, “that everyone knew that.”
Perhaps, but now it's Kinnear directive to prod a slumping Galaxy team that announced Monday it was parting ways with Schmid, into the MLS Cup playoffs, a most thorny assignment, indeed. They're 10-10-8, winless in six games since the end of July, and sitting eighth in the West, three points below the playoff line with fewer games remaining than all but one of the other four teams that appear to be jockeying for the conference's final three postseason berths.
The news, which Kinnear received Sunday morning and his players learned when they arrived at StubHub Center on Monday, came as a surprise and as something of a disappointment to the team.
Kinnear acknowledged he “wasn't really thrilled” to get the assignment — he’d grown close to Schmid in Los Angeles — but he's ready for the task at hand.
“I think everyone knows the urgency of the situation,” he said. “We don't have the coach from the start of the season with us. We have six games left and we still have a chance to make the playoffs. They have to be professional about it and put any emotions aside and just get back to working hard to hopefully prepare to win the game on Saturday [at Toronto FC].”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic took the decision in stride.
“This is football, right?” he said. “It's happened before, and it will happen again, and that's the way it is. When things don't go good and the results are not there, always is the coach [who] takes that responsibility. This time it was Sigi, and, yeah, we have to keep going, we have to keep working hard. We still have six games to play and we still have to believe and we still have to try to make it.”
Ibrahimovic described Schmid as “a nice coach ... a nice person” who “did his thing and coached well” but “didn't get 100 percent out of the team, which can happen.” He wasn't anticipating a move, but isn’t surprised because of the club’s aspirations.
“Galaxy is the club that has won the most trophies in the MLS, and they want to be on top. If the results are not good, they are not satisfied,” Ibra said. “We have to respect every decision. We are professional, we are football players. Same thing [can happen] in our case, but we don't get fired. We end up on the bench or in the stands. When you play on the highest level, that's the way it is.”
Kinnear is the third Galaxy head coach since Bruce Arena stepped down following the 2016 season to take charge of the U.S. national team's unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup. Schmid, who coached the Galaxy from 1999 through 2004 and later guided Columbus Crew SC and Seattle Sounders, took over from Curt Onalfo in July 2017.
“It's getting like Europe now,” captain Ashley Cole said. “[Four] managers in three years. ... It's never a good moment for a manager to leave. But we didn't expect it to happen now.”