Well, the LA Galaxy officially have their new manager in place as Greg Vanney was introduced (virtually) to media on Wednesday afternoon, scarf and all. It was the first big decision of many facing the club this offseason.
So: Now what?
Arriving in Los Angeles, Vanney inherits a roster that currently has just 13 players under contract which, at time of writing, is fewer than expansion side Austin FC. The Galaxy had myriad problems in recent seasons that caused the club to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, big questions over how to maximize Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's talent and the minor saga of finding a permanent deal with Boca Juniors for the return of superstar winger Cristian Pavon.
“Anything regarding players and recruitment, I have a strong network," GM Dennis te Kloese told media. "We’ve been able to bring in players available and wanted here. But now we have to take a step back, sit down with Greg and go through with specific detail. He’s someone who has a clear idea on his methodology and playing style. We’d like to take advantage of that and take the right decisions.”
Vanney does like to say he's a builder, after all.
“I’ve looked at the roster closely," Vanney said. "The guys here have done a great job in creating a lot of flexibility in the roster to allow us to build. ... We have great pieces here with Javier, Jonathan (dos Santos) and multiple guys. There are a lot of building blocks in place. We need to get complimentary pieces for them.”
Those building blocks didn't do much of the lifting in 2020, a difficult year for all at the club.
Dos Santos struggled through injuries, starting only seven matches and failing to make a goal contribution. Meanwhile, Chicharito struggled with form and injuries, only making seven starts as well and finding just two goals in 758 minutes. There's some optimism, though. For dos Santos' injury-prone reputation, he's among the league's best defensive midfielders when fit and started 29 of 34 games in 2019. Chicharito's goal scoring record is solid at legitimately every single club he's been at.
“I think he is a world-class goalscorer, a guy who understands how to put the ball in the back of the net," Vanney said. "He’s very clever about his movements to find little windows and space. His finishing ability is off the charts. For us, it’s important to help him. Having a clear way of creating chances, what we’re trying to do in attack. A forward like that reads what’s going no around him so he can organize the space. If it’s random, it’s difficult for him to understand the timing and movements.”
Another foundational piece for the Galaxy would be Cristian Pavon, if they can navigate his return.
Watch: Greg Vanney discusses Cristian Pavon's future on Extratime
The Galaxy declined his purchase option after a loan from Boca Juniors as they hoped to negotiate a more palatable transfer fee. Pavon's loan officially ended at the end of December and is technically a Boca player again, but the Galaxy still hope he can return.
“We’ve been in contact over the last month formally with Boca," te Kloese said. "Those conversations have been friendly and open, but we haven’t reached an agreement. In the moment, we need to take our time and assess our needs and listen closely to what Greg has to say. Like everybody else, Greg is in favor of Cristian but there needs to be specific circumstances to bring him here.”
Pavon, who turns 25 in a few weeks, had 13 goals and 15 assists in 33 games with the Galaxy after arriving in the summer of 2019.
“Cristian is a player we’d love to get back," Vanney added. "He brings a lot to this team.”
While much focus will be on the Designated Players, the Galaxy have plenty of complementary pieces still to add. They are still in negotiations with a number of players who were out of contract following last season, so could have a bit of roster continuity under new management.
“There are a lot of pieces to like," Vanney said. "It’s my responsibility to get the most out of the players we have here, to get them on the right page and build off of those guys."