LA Galaxy Head Coach Search: Vagenas As GM And Potential Targets

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Editorial (November 28, 2016) – Yesterday,¬†former LA Galaxy player and current VP of soccer operations Peter Vagenas was named general manager. Club president Chris Klein announced this during a conference call, and made several other statements surrounding the LA Galaxy head coach and off-season decisions. Let’s break it all down.

LA Galaxy Head Coach Search: Vagenas As GM Analysis And Potential Targets

Vagenas Is A Good GM Hire

Remember that Bruce Arena was both the head coach and general manager for the Galaxy. In many ways the GM hiring was going to be more difficult that the head coaching hire. Sigi Schmid isn’t under contract and available. The Galaxy have enough cache for coaches of other MLS teams to be willing to leave.

The hard part about the GM hire is that there weren’t any immediate names that come to mind out there. Arena did so much from the management side of the things. Finding someone with the ability to maneuver the roster rules of MLS as creatively as he could would be difficult. He also had a knack for finding that value player out of nowhere, think Mike Magee, Dan Gargan, or Sebastian Lletget.

There are plenty of good coaching options out there. There aren’t that many GMs out there that can work the magic Arena has in the past.

We’ll have to wait and see if Vagenas has those same qualities. What we do know is that he’s been excellent for the LA Galaxy Academy. As academy director and VP of soccer operations, he helped launch the academy school. He started the LA Galaxy Girls Academy teams. The 38-year-old Pasadena, CA native has been at the helm for several academy players turning pro as well.

What Arena has done as the CEO of the first team Vagenas has done for the academy. This will help tremendously with the Galaxy adopting (at least a partial) youth movement that the league has seen lately. As far as internal candidates, you couldn’t find a better guy with no MLS GM experience.

He’s been around the club long enough, that he may have even learned enough by osmosis. It might still be a decisions-by-committee and a learn-as-you-go situation. But there’s continuity in appointing a guy who knows the club from the inside, understands the ethos, and has had success in it.

The Hiring Process And Potential Targets

Klein did say today that Vagenas will be a part of the coaching search. This off-season will also be a busy one. The Galaxy have several roster decisions to make, including filling two open DP slots. There’s the 2016 Expansion Draft in just a few weeks. Then the MLS SuperDraft in the first week of January.

The club made it clear that hiring a new head coach would be their top priority and that it will be done before the new year. Hopefully it’s done sooner than that so the new head coach has a say in who the Galaxy will protect in the Expansion Draft.

Klein did state that former Associate Head Coach Dave Sarachan would not be considered for the position. The only internal candidate they have spoken with is Curt Onalfo.

Onalfo is probably the only and the best qualified internal candidate. He’s one of Arena’s disciples. He’s been with the club since 2011 and coached Los Dos since their inception in 2014. Vagenas has probably worked with him through some of the academy and USL level work. He’s not a sexy pick or a big name pick, but he’s probably the best choice for continuity sake. I wouldn’t hire him if more experienced options were available.

The aforementioned Sigi Schmid is still available, and probably the most experienced name out there without a job. He’s coached the Galaxy before. He’s familiar with coaching in pressure situations, having been with the Seattle Sounders from 2009 til this summer. His biggest weakness might have been his inability to beat Arena head-to-head. Arena is no longer coaching in MLS. I’d give him a call just to gauge interest. If he wants it, he’d be my first choice, independent of price. That’s a no-brainer.

Peter Vermes Is the Best Option Of Current MLS Coaches:

There are several other names of current and recent MLS coaches who’ve been floated out there. Caleb Porter, Greg Berhalter, Mike Petke, and Peter Vermes to name a few.

If you ask me, I wouldn’t take any current MLS coach (besides Jason Kreis) over Schmid. After that, of the names out there, Vermes is the best choice.

Porter and Berhalter have both coached teams to an MLS Cup Final (Porter beating Berhalter last season). But both their clubs have been up and down. The Portland Timbers have missed the playoffs two of the four years Porter has been there. Take away the MLS Cup run (which was spectacular) and they’ve been middle of the pack. Berhalter has potential, but it still doesn’t seem like the Columbus Crew got over how they lost MLS Cup 2015. He bears some responsibility in that.

Of all the other names out there, none of them have proven they can develop talent AND win while managing egos. For the Galaxy to have sustainable success, they need a coach who can handle big name players and integrate players into the first team.

Sigi Schmid and Peter Vermes have both done that. Vermes has been technical director and Head Coach with Sporting KC since 2006. Their academy has grown significantly since then. He’s won trophies. He’s a hard-nosed no BS coach.

They’ll both earn respect from players they don’t immediately get it from immediately. They can handle big egos and build healthy locker room chemistry.

His one weakness has been that Sporting often sell players (at a great price) without a readily available replacement. At the Galaxy, he’d be given all the resources to succeed. He won’t need to sell as often. When he does, he’ll be given the funds to replace sold assets.

I’m still not sure his high press #SportingFit style of play would catch on right away. But the Galaxy have plenty of youth and speed to make it work with a few moves here and there.