Third place champions of nothing do not deserve extended analysis. So I apologize in advance for reading way, way too much into the Galaxy promoting Curt Onalfo to replace Bruce Arena as coach.
Popular opinion among Galaxy fans is that AEG is cutting costs with moves like this, as well as promoting Peter Vagenas to handle Arena's old general manager duties. Something about wasting several million dollars on a Steven Gerrard-lookalike, and/or paying Robbie Keane five and a half years for four and a half years of exemplary work. I still think Vagenas and Onalfo are the right hires - probably the only hires - if you come from the point of view that the Galaxy is the best and best-run soccer organization in North America.
You, valiant and long-suffering reader, might or might not agree with that. But I think we can agree that this opinion is held very strongly, with a heat map of such strength centering around the corner of Victoria and Avalon in Carson, California. This was from after the Galaxy put about as much thought into the Superdraft as the college football bowl playoff committee put into inviting Wycombe Wanderers:
The decision to trade out of the draft was made after an exhausting analysis of the current draft class, which club Vice President Peter Vagenas believes was simply not to the level of the products coming out of the team’s academy.
“There were some interesting players, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the strength of our development system and the quality of players that we have coming through,” Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We feel that those players will continue to develop in our program and eventually make it onto our first team.
“We’re always looking to strengthen your team, and if you can do that via the draft or another mechanism, then you’ll do that. It’s a real compare and contrast,” said Vagenas. "College kids are in direct competition to players that are coming out our development system. At the end of the day, we believe that not only are the players that we have in our Academy better, but their ceiling is higher.”
The attentive MLS fan will have noticed that this belief did not end up being supported by mundane trinkets awarded for mere on-field performance, at least not in 2016. This is, for the moment, irrelevant. Confidence bordering on narcissism, then bounding over the border in a blitzkrieg to seize the capital, is the LA Galaxy corporate culture. The Galaxy think their future is already in Carson, and have said so loudly.
Besides, there's the matter of getting guys to fill lower spots in the staff. If you keep an ex-head coach like Onalfo whiling away with the kids for literally years, then don't promote him when the opportunity arises? Well, you're now going to have to find a new head coach, and a new academy coach, at least. And good luck getting quality people to stay loyal when a big name can be hired over them at any point. You don't bring in people from the outside, if everything is going that well. Cost-cutting or no cost-cutting, the Galaxy are going to ride or die (or both) with who they have.
Which isn't that bad, he added myopically. Look at it this way - the Galaxy will field forwards who will get significant playing time for both the US and Mexico national teams. It's not easy to market club soccer, maybe never will be - but it should be a hell of a lot easier to market Dos Santos and Zardes than anyone else.
....did we ever get around to pointing out how weird it was to have huge American stars playing for Toronto, whose fans are presumably immune to the allure of the USMNT? We did? Just double-checking.
But there is an issue here. And myopic fans like me, sadly, needed to have it hit them in the face.
Last month Bomani Jones on ESPN brought up the Bruce Arena "America First!" comments. He, understandably, took note of the complexion of many of the US national team players who weren't born in the United States, and drew some very understandable conclusions. Was it possible to accuse Klinsmann of favoring European-based players? Should Arena's defenders have been quicker to respond with something like "What about Jozy and Gyasi and Tim Howard?" Maybe. But it just so happened that a bunch of the Amis were people of color, and not being called real Americans. It was a bad look.
Well, the Galaxy just replaced Bruce Arena with not one but two white guys. In the Los Angeles market. And yes, I realize I just got finished saying that Vagenas and Onalfo are the most qualified people for the jobs. Who decided they would be put in a position to be the most qualified? Sure, they're Galaxy family. So are Robin Fraser, Ezra Hendrickson, and Tyrone Marshall.
I was gratified to read that Major League Soccer has made strides in hiring, even from last year. But the sport's African-American outreach stinks. I still think this is because African-Americans are seen more for on-field contributions than as a talent pool for management, or even as a fertile market for customers. I'm glad Leslie Jones is enjoying her front-running glory-hunting - er, I mean, her Sounders fandom. But there are millions of others out there, badly underrepresented in the stands.
So if Onalfo isn't the right guy for the job - well, that's going to be his third bite of the MLS head coaching apple, for heaven's sake. And because his main qualification is the promise of a quick and easy transition back to success, he will have an extremely short honeymoon. I hope Onalfo succeeds - by all accounts he's one of the nicest guys in the organization. And MLS shouldn't take all the blame for a problem that goes right down the pyramid, all the way to youth clubs.
But if Onalfo doesn't succeed - well, there are plenty of people out there who could replace him. At least pick a coach that can bring in new fans. And not just celebrities like Vieira (who seems to be working out so far) or Gullit (who, no). I love the idea of giving ex-MLS players who know the league a chance to continue to contribute. So let's actually do that.