The LA Galaxy have been considered a glamor club in MLS, the team with all the trophies. The team of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Bruce Arena and so many more. But that didn't happen at the snap of a finger and it didn't happen by accident.
Greg Vanney remembers a time when the Galaxy (and MLS) didn't have that glamor. He remembers training sessions on a patch of grass near the Rose Bowl, where the pre-session warm-up was walking the area to pick up glass and covering manholes before getting some work in.
It was there, on that glass-covered de-facto parking lot that the Galaxy lore was founded. It's there that the trophies began piling, Vanney one of the chief architects of that culture.
Now, Vanney is back in Los Angeles to rebuild that culture.
“This is a club used to being on top, which has built a legacy that has defined our league and set a standard," Vanney told media on his virtual introductory press conference. "Many teams who have come into the league have sought to be more like the Galaxy in some way, shape or form. For me, it’s about getting back to there. How can we be a standard-bearer for this league?”
Vanney takes over a Galaxy team which has not won a trophy since 2014 and hasn't been a contender in the league since finishing third in the Western Conference in 2016. They have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons after only missing the playoffs three times in the first 21 years of their history.
LA parted ways with Guillermo Barros Schelotto at the end of October before finishing the season out. Vanney was in the midst of a Supporters' Shield race while at Toronto FC, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.
Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese says the club's immediate focus was analyzing the squad, pinpointing their mistakes and plotting a way forward. As they got into their search, Vanney announced he was stepping away from Toronto.
Once a 𝔊, Always a 𝔊 pic.twitter.com/oxPo8Tg5RR— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) January 6, 2021
“(When Greg became available) our search changed a lot. … Seeing his teams win, play well, fight for the club and creating a great identity makes Greg is an ideal candidate," said te Kloese.
When Vanney first took over Toronto FC during the 2014 season, the club did not have the reputation they enjoy today.
The club failed to make the playoffs in their first eight seasons in MLS, then broke that streak in Vanney's first full season. On top of the treble in 2017, Vanney helped guide the club to two more Canadian Championship titles and two more trips to MLS Cup. They also got to the Concacaf Champions League final in 2018, losing on penalties. No MLS club has ever won that competition.
“The longer we had conversations with Greg, the love for our club became apparent," club president Chris Klein said. "He thinks of it the same way I do, our ownership does and our fans do. That love was very clear and that became something that set him apart.”
Vanney spent seven years with the Galaxy during his playing career.
“This is a club I laid my heart and soul for on the field as a player and I’m looking forward to doing so as the manager of this team," Vanney said.
Vanney has labeled himself a builder. He has a long-term vision and is aiming to rebuild the club piece by piece back to the top.
“The work is just beginning, it’s a long process," Vanney said. "I’m a process-oriented coach. The outcomes we’re seeking are only realistic if we come to work everyday and build.”
Thankfully, he won't have to start by picking up glass on a patchy area of grass.