CARSON, Calif. – Now that the LA Galaxy have a head coach in place, their focus turns to constructing a roster that can contend for championships. There's much building to be done.
Decisions on how to deal with a surplus of Designated Players following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's new deal and improving the defense must be made, and there's only so much time to do so. The season begins March 2, against the Chicago Fire at Dignity Health Sports Park, and the work, in earnest, begins now.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto's appointment as head coach, the primary work Dennis te Kloese pursued in his first month as general manager, serves as something of a trigger.
“The first and most important and biggest piece [of building the team] is the coach,” Te Kloese said during Thursday afternoon's news conference introducing Barros Schelotto, a former Columbus Crew SC star who guided Boca Juniors to the last two Argentine Primera Division titles. “The coach, within all decisions we take as a club, has the highest say about where he wants to take the team, how he envisions the building of the roster.
“I think with his knowledge and actual playing experience in MLS, and my knowledge and my ability to reach out to different players and see where we can improve, it's going to be a big challenge. There's obviously within MLS rules and regulations that we have a need to be creative, but we will be creative, and we will be able to balance out a few points that we noticed that can be improved. We're eager to start working.”
The Galaxy have a roster of 19 players after bringing back Brazilian midfielder Juninho, a standout on Bruce Arena's MLS Cup-winning sides, re-signing Ibrahimovic and Chris Pontius, and taking goalkeeper Matt Lampson in the second stage of the Re-Entry Draft. Reports last month from Corner of the Galaxy and the Los Angeles Times have defender Dave Romney also signing a new deal, the club has acknowledged they are in talks with midfielder Emmanuel Boateng about a new contract, and there might be interest in bringing back captain Ashley Cole and fellow outside back Rolf Feltscher, whose options were declined in November.
Figuring out the DP situation, and its potential impact on available funds, is critical. Ibrahimovic, who last year was signed using Targeted Allocation Money, jumps into the DP class with his new agreement, and so something must happen with Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos or Jonathan dos Santos.
There has been speculation that the Galaxy would look to move Giovani, or buy out his contract, after a disappointing, injury-marred season. The Mexican midfielder, meant to be the face of the franchise when he signed in July 2015, has been only sporadically effective, and his departure would provide LA more cushion under the league's salary constraints.
There also has been rumors that Alessandrini, a French winger coming off two strong seasons, could be dealt to the Montreal Impact.
Te Kloese had little to say on the matter.
“I think it wouldn't be fair to go into names specifically if we haven't spoken to the player,” he said when asked about Giovani. “With high-profile players, there's always a lot of interest from other teams. We'll see what's best for the team, see what's best for the club, and the first very big step for us was to have the coach installed and having him being part of the decision-making process going forward. ...
“I think for a club, it's very important that [from] the management, the coach gets backed up, gets authority. I didn't and I don't want to take any steps before discussing this with Guillermo, so we can make the right decisions.”