CARSON, Calif. – Last Friday, the LA Galaxy mutually agreed to part ways with midfielder Aleksandar Katai. This comes after Katai’s wife Tea Katai posted incendiary comments on her Instagram in response to protests to institutionalized racism and the death of George Floyd.
Aleksandar Katai, LA Galaxy Part Ways: What it Means
First off, this simply had to be done. Given the heightened polarization in this country and MLS’s clear social value stance on equality and tolerance (Ex: Don’t cross the line, Soccer for all), the relationship had become untenable. With the league trying to restart the season with the logistically complicated Orlando tournament, MLS and the Galaxy did not need this right now.
Katai Damage Control:
Given Katai’s history (and I guess him not filing for divorce?), this was the most prudent choice. You may disagree politically with the Galaxy’s political stances or even with a sports team having and acting on political ideology. But once that’s established, those values have to be stuck to.
It should be noted that Katai released a statement condemning his wife’s comments. It was well crafted and well said, but based on Katai’s comprehension of the English language, it might not have been his genuine words.
So, now what? Katai’s imagine has certainly taken a hit on the hot button item of the month. He is now a free agent but given the state of sports in the world, probably won’t find a new club anytime soon. Some public image damage control might be needed first if he wants to sign for a European club in the modified summer window.
As for the Galaxy, they just lost their TAM starting right winger. Going into this season, Katai was the Galaxy’s third most important attacking player after Chicharito Hernandez and Cristian Pavon.
It’s not immediately clear who starts in that position or if the Galaxy alter the formation and system because of this. Sebastian Lletget might be an option, given he’s played a wide role in the past and the Galaxy have depth in midfield with Sacha Kljestian.
It’s also not clear by what means the Galaxy parted ways with Aleksandar Katai. They could have used the mid-season buyout option, which would come with no cap relief. If the club’s lucky, they had a disorderly conduct (or something to that effect) clause in the contract to invoke and render it void without a buyout. If they didn’t get some of the TAM back, it’s going to be harder to sign a replacement in the summer, even with a likely buyers market.
Big Offensive Expectations on the Little Pea:
Even then, that player could be coming off a long layoff due to his league shutting down or he’s exhausted from the truncated June/July schedule to finish the season. Say the Galaxy sign a quality replacement for Katai on July 7 when the secondary transfer window opens up. That player might be obligated to finish out the season with his last club. He’s got to emigrate to the U.S., quarantine, get re-fit, and used to his new teammates.
That’s not a path to immediate results, especially if he takes no part in the tournament in Orlando.
Fairly or not, Chicharito signing as a DP striker was going to bring up comparisons to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With Katai gone, even more offensive responsibility falls to Hernandez. Things didn’t look good in the first two games. That will have to change. As Chicharito and Pavon go, so will the 2020 Galaxy season.
This move took a load off the Galaxy’s communications department and brand; that much more responsibility and expectaton is on the shoulders of the Little Pea.