CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy's late push for an Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs berth was largely the product of changes Dominic Kinnear made when he took charge following head coach Sigi Schmid's departure in early September.
He brought organization that strengthened a frustratingly porous defense, greater intensity to training sessions, and won the admiration of the players as the team went on a four-game unbeaten streak that put it on the verge of a Western Conference postseason appearance.
That it ultimately failed, doomed by a horrid second half as the Galaxy conceded a two-goal lead in a 3-2 home loss to Houston in the season finale, did not detract from what Kinnear accomplished, says club president Chris Klein.
Did Kinnear do enough to remove the “interim” tag from his title? That's one of the big decisions facing LA as they head into the offseason, and the man whose opinion most counts isn't yet on board.
Priority No. 1 for the Galaxy is hiring a new soccer-operations leader and that hire will determine whether Kinnear stays or goes. Meanwhile, brass is talking to prospective replacements.
“We've had numerous conversations with coaching candidates,” Klein said Tuesday at StubHub Center during the Galaxy's final media availability of the season. “But at this point, we have to allow the lead person to come in and take that over, because I believe very strongly it is the most important partnership [at the club].”
Klein wouldn't identify any of the candidates the Galaxy is interviewing for the soccer-operations post, which opened when Peter Vagenas was dismissed, a move the club announced Tuesday morning. Reports have former Galaxy GM and head coach Bruce Arena and former Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant among those who have had discussions, and multiple sources have told MLSsoccer.com's Sam Stejskal that the team has “serious interest” in bringing in Dennis te Kloese, a former Chivas USA sporting director who has served as director of Mexico's national teams since August.
Kinnear is the only name the Galaxy have identified as a head coach candidate, Klein noted, “but someone is going to come in, and there has to be a relationship there and they're going to have to make the decision with the support of me and the support of ownership.”
Kinnear, 51, a former US men's national team midfielder who played in MLS for the Colorado Rapids, San Jose Clash and Tampa Bay Mutiny, guided the Houston Dynamo to back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2006-07 and into the 2011 and 2012 finals, where they lost to the Galaxy. He was Frank Yallop's chief assistant when the San Jose Earthquakes won MLS Cup championships in 2001 and 2003 and led the Quakes to the Supporters' Shield in 2005.
Schmid brought in Kinnear, who also coached the Quakes in 2015-17, as his top assistant after taking the reins in summer 2017.
Klein said Kinnear was “very good” after stepping in after Schmid's departure.
“He came in and he structured the group,” Klein said. “I think you saw that we had a good team organization, we had good team spirit as well, and the guys really battled and fought. I give him a tremendous amount of credit. One half didn't allow us to get [to the playoffs], but as a club, yeah, [if] we get into the playoffs, could we have won? Yeah, possibly. But we have to look at the whole season.”
Kinnear has his players' support.
“I think Dom did a great job,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. “He did a good job. He did a good job under a different environment, if you understand what I mean. It's not his. This [team and environment] was [created by] somebody else, and he took over. And I think he should have a possibility, a chance, to show himself under his circumstances, under his, let's say, his team. His people.”
Goalkeeper David Bingham, who also played for Kinnear in San Jose, said he “would love to see him continue as coach.”
“Dom, he's a good coach,” Bingham said. “He's been around for a long time, he's personable, the guys work for him, and he knows what he wants, and he tells you exactly what he wants, and if you don't do it, he'll find someone to do it, and the guys respect that.”