Breaking Down the Fallout and Supporter Boycott as La Galaxy Reportedly Bring Chris Klein Back as President

chris klein

OPINION – Chris Klein will reportedly return as President of the LA Galaxy for an 11th season in 2023, as first reported by Kevin Baxter of the LA Times on Corner of the Galaxy. This comes off Klein’s last contract expiring at the end of 2022, a gradual decline of the club during his tenure, and sanctions to the club and Klein for actions during the 2019 season. Why are the Galaxy bringing Klein back? How has the fanbase reacted? What does this say and mean about the state of the former MLS super club and AEG’s ownership?

Breaking Down the Fallout and Supporter Boycott as LA Galaxy Reportedly Bring Chris Klein Back as President

First, some brief history on Klein’s time as the club. He played in MLS from 1998 to 2010, those last four years with the Gs. He retired from playing and assumed Senior Director and Vice President roles the following year. In 2013, AEG’s Tim Leiweke appointed him President, where he mainly dealt with the business operations of the club. He has been in this role continuously through the end of 2022.

Klein’s Track Record of Unstable Leadership and On-Field Failures

Klein was in the front office for the best period of success for the club from 2011-14 in which they won three of their five MLS Cups. In hindsight, it’s clear the team’s success was due to Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena and the financial backing from ownership. Arena left at the end of 2016 to take over the national team. He and his coaching staff left, as did all the technical knowhow and technical side brain trust of the club.

Klein then appointed friend and former Galaxy teammate Pete Vagenas General Manager. Longtime Arena assistant Curt Onalfo becoming Head Coach to usher in an era of Homegrown built success. Halfway through the season, that was abandoned. Onalfo was fired and scapegoated. Klein made public statements denying relying on young players and rebuilding. Sigi Schmid was brought in to be the adult who knew what he was doing. A power struggle ensued, with Schmid resigning before the end of 2018. He died three months later.

The 2018 season was a flawed roster build that made headlines and won exciting games but could not contend. The Dos Santos brothers and Zlatan Ibrahimovic got recognition and buzz. They made highlight reels (at least Ibra did and sometimes Jonathan dos Santos). But the domestic player decisions were inferior compared to the Arena era. They missed the playoffs. Vagenas quietly left the club, another possible departure to help Klein save face. Dennis te Kloese came in to run the technical side of the club, appointing Guillermo Barros Schelotto as manager for 2019. That blew up by the end of 2020. Greg Vanney was named Head Coach in January of 2021, coming off a near dynastic period with Toronto FC. He has gradually taken over power and decision making on the sporting side for the better.

Klein has rarely been directly in control of technical and on-field decisions. But as President, he’s appointed the people who have. He’s picked poor candidates and built disorganized leadership teams only for them to take the fall on their way out. The club has had successful years financially under Klein. Riding the coattails of past MLS Cups to sell season tickets whilst spending less helps. Perhaps that’s kept him in the good graces of the people he reports to at AEG.

He’s the only person still in power from the Bruce Arena days. In a league where half the teams make the playoffs, the Galaxy have missed the playoffs more times (four) in his ten years in charge than the fifteen years without (three). The club’s gone from MLS Cup favorites to at times barely playoff hopefuls. They’ve been completely usurped in Los Angeles by LAFC. LAFC are the younger brother, but they’re now unquestionably the bigger brother. Klein lead the fall of this dynasty and still kept his job at the expense of others. At what point will he be held responsible for the years of failures of people he hired?

On Top of All That, the Sanctions From Last Month:

Last month, MLS completed an investigation of the club surrounding compensation and roster rules violations involving DP winger Cristian Pavón’ in 2019. As a result, the Galaxy were sanctioned with a $1 million fine and the loss of $1 million in Generation Allocation Money. The club is not allowed to register player with an International Transfer Certificate from outside the U.S. or Canada this coming Secondary Transfer Window. This is effectively an international transfer ban during the window in which MLS teams make their biggest international signings.

Chris Klein has been banned from sporting-related responsibilities through the end of the 2023 Primary Transfer Window. Vanney has been promoted to Sporting Director, officially removing Klein from the technical side of the club entirely.

How can the Galaxy validate the decision to bring back a President who’s been punished for violating league rules? If we’re believing the conspiracy theories and gripes from other fanbases, MLS bends the rules regularly to help the Galaxy. How then does one get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and keep their job? Maybe Klein has really been great on the financial side of the club. Maybe AEG just care about that side of things and these sanctions are seen as part of doing that business. Maybe it’s a sign there’s even more rot in ownership. It’s hard to see how an organization committed to winning makes this decision. And maybe that’s it. Maybe AEG don’t care about wins and trophies as much as they did a decade ago.

The Fallout: Supporters Groups Boycott

The Galaxy community has not reacted well to this news. The vast majority of the fanbase was already #KleinOut and had been for years. Last Friday, the supporters groups Angel City Brigade, LA Riot Squad, Galaxians, Galaxy Outlawz, and Ghost Ultras came out with a joint statement against Chris Klein’s extension. The unanimously agreed to boycott matches until front office changes are made.

This comes ahead of the season opener that will see El Tráfico played at the Rose Bowl and count as a Galaxy home game. Many have speculated it will be an LAFC heavy crowd on the back of the MLS Cup Championship. Some LAFC supporters have voiced solidarity and agreed to not attend the Rose Bowl game.

If this public and united holdout makes it through the early part of the season, how can the club not act? If El Tráfico doesn’t even get 30,000 in attendance, surely that would send a message to Don Garber and the league offices?

Failures on the field. Unclear results behind the scenes. A technical side that’s just now stabilized after years. Alienated supporters. A cloud that could negatively affect the 2023 season, which was set to be Vanney’s best yet. All this to bring back Chris Klein.
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