The LA Galaxy finally announced the firing of president Chris Klein on Tuesday. Amid a disastrous 2-9-3 start that had them sitting in last place in the MLS table, the organization finally made the decision after trying to wait out a prolonged boycott and dwindling attendance. The turmoil came to a head on Saturday when a group of fans confronted some of the players after yet another loss at home.
The front office had appeared to remain firm in their resolve to withstand the demands laid out by the supporters’ groups, who prior to the start of the season announced an attendance boycott until Klein stepped down. As a mea culpa of sorts, Klein had promised earlier in the season that he would resign if the Galaxy failed to advance in this year’s playoffs. Along with that concession, the desired efficacy of the boycott seemed to be in serious jeopardy when one of the five protesting groups, Angel City Brigade, announced in late April an end to their participation, citing “a breaking point” along with their having been able to “gain written concessions that indicate change.”
It’s hard to ignore the team’s lackluster track record, which includes having hired five different coaches and four general managers in the past seven years while having made the playoffs only twice. Despite not having played for an MLS Cup since 2014, Dan Beckerman, CEO of the team’s parent company AEG, had seen fit to sign Klein to a multi-year contract extension this winter. Apparently, strong revenue numbers from ticket sales and sponsorships were enough to overlook the team’s dreadful on-field results and give it much more credence.
While historically one of the most popular clubs in the league, attendance figures are down more than 2,000 this season. With the latest home game exceeding just 17,000 fans and the franchise continuing to have its reputation battered, it appears club executives realized it was finally time to pull the trigger.
“As a club we have not achieved our goals or met the standard that we have established for the Galaxy,” Beckerman said in a statement. “We believe it is in the best interest of the club to make a change and begin a comprehensive process to seek new leadership that will return the club to the level that our fans and partners expect.”
Perhaps bolstered by this recent news, the team was able to get its first win on the road Wednesday night. Having entered the game in last place and without their captain Chicharito due to a suspension, the LA Galaxy were nonetheless able to complete a 3-2 comeback against Real Salt Lake. The emotional win gave them some small hope and a positive development, a quality that had been scarce the past few months. In response, the remaining supporters’ groups collectively announced an end to their boycott participation as well.
What Happens Now?
There is still a little more than half of the season remaining, and the Galaxy are currently in second-to-last place in the Western Conference with their latest win. However, with nine of the 14 teams qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs, it’s feasible that they can still qualify and perhaps even find postseason success. Sporting director and head coach Greg Vanney himself seemed to hint at such a possible notion.
“What we talked about this week is that you’re never too far away,” Vanney said. “One of the things about MLS in the regular season, especially early on, is it can be forgiving if you can find your footing and you can find yourself and you can get on some sort of a run. You can build some sort of consistency. Many teams have won a championship.”
One of the challenges will be trying to turn things around without signing any players from abroad during the upcoming summer transfer window. As part of the sanctions imposed on the Galaxy for violating salary guidelines in 2019, they are limited to signing players and free agents from the United States only. Vanney will continue to lead all soccer operations and will now report directly to Beckerman while Jovan Kirovski remains the technical director for now. Both are longtime front office personnel who have resided unabashed during Klein’s tenure. With Klein now gone, the club may have bought some time, but the precedent has been set for additional changes if necessary.
There isn’t a quick fix for the LA Galaxy, who have failed to make the playoffs four times in the last five years. It’s apparent that the team is floundering without a commanding identity on or off the field. The current makeup of the squad doesn’t seem to point towards long-term success. Chicharito and Douglas Costa are Designated Players whose contracts are set to expire in the winter. For Costa, with a guaranteed $4.5 million and zero goals so far, it may be a positive. Chicharito, while still productive, has had some injuries this year and just turned 34.
While Klein’s firing should provide momentary appeasement from disgruntled fans, unless the team is able to make a marked improvement and right the ship soon, the dissatisfaction from their ardent fanbase is unlikely to go away. At least for now, they have the backing of their supporters’ groups once again. We’ll have to wait and see whether the drums and chanting will have them returning to their former glory.