Chris Klein - LA Galaxy - close-up
USA Today Sports

LA Galaxy aiming to get "right people" to turn around fortunes in 2019

CARSON, Calif. — The work the LA Galaxy did to redefine themselves the past two offseasons failed to bring the kind of success the club demands, so they're at it again.

The priorities: find someone to lead soccer operations, decide on a head coach, figure out how much roster turnover is required, and create a foundation that can bring success in 2019 and beyond.

“I don't know if it's starting over again,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said Tuesday, “but I think what it is is [that under former head coach/general manager] Bruce [Arena], we were a club that was driven by one person on the soccer side for so long. And when we had to make changes quickly, I think we got the structure right, but we didn't get everything right.

“We're going to structure our club right. For the short term and the long term, so that we can succeed. The boxes [that we're checking] have to be right, and we have to go out and get the right people.”

It's uncertain how much change will be needed. Klein said there would be a thorough evaluation of every area within the club – from players, coaches and staff to scouting to the academy to medical practices and sports science – but much of that will be the work of the new chief of soccer operations, after Peter Vagenas was fired from that post on Tuesday. 

“Priority for me is to hire a leader for our soccer operations,” Klein said. “That is the first step. And then we'll go on from there. Obviously, we need a coach for next year, so I would put that as priority 1B. But first things first, and then we'll continue to move through it.

“We have to take a look, and that will be up to that person [hired to run soccer operations] and the group of people to take a look at some of the progress we made this year and certainly some of the holes and the further progress we need to make.”

Multiple sources have told MLSsoccer.com's Sam Stejskal that LA has “serious interest” in Dennis te Kloese for that role. The Dutchman, a former Chivas USA sporting director, is Mexico's director of national teams. Former Galaxy head coach/general manager Bruce Arena also has reportedly interviewed for the job.

LA's soccer-side leadership has been more committee since Arena departed after the 2016 season to take charge of the US national team's failed 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. That's something that almost certainly won't change, Klein said, and that could signal that Arena is unlikely to return.

“We're not going to lock ourselves into anything, but what I would say is it needs a group of talented people and not just one person,” Klein said. “I don't believe that one person solves everything. It needs a team. It needs a lot to build a modern club, and that's our ambition.

“Our ambition is to be the best and to structure our club in the right way and to fill it with the right people and give it the right resources in order to succeed, and then support those people. That's the direction we're going to take for 2019 and beyond.”

The Galaxy also plan to look at medical practices after successive seasons in which injury crises played big roles in the club's inability to reach the playoffs. LA suffered from a number of muscle injuries this year, with Giovani dos Santos sidelined much of the campaign by repeated ailments.

“We have to look at everything to get better,” Klein said. “The evaluation is not just on the coaching side, the player side. It's medical, it's data, it's sports science, it's all of these things that come together, and that evaluation is under way."

The chief roster priorities are ensuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return – he has a year left on his contract, and he and the club are in talks about next season – and strengthening the backline. A top center back with leadership abilities would be a valuable addition.

“I think if you look at our roster, when everyone's healthy, it's arguably the best in the whole league,” goalkeeper David Bingham said. “I don't think you can say anyone else's roster is as good as ours, when you look top to bottom. That being said, you have to see it on the field.”

"We keep the same team, maybe with two or three more players, and, hopefully, we get into the playoffs next year," winger Romain Alessandrini said. "And why not win the championship? Everything can happen in this league.”

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