Chris Klein admits that replacing Bruce Arena is next to impossible. In eight full seasons in charge of the LA Galaxy, Arena captured three MLS Cups while solidifying the Galaxy’s spot as one of MLS’ top dogs.
Replacing something like that is unlikely, and Klein and the Galaxy don’t intend to look for Bruce Arena 2.0. Rather, the LA Galaxy president says they’re looking for find someone ready to build upon the foundation laid down throughout the past 20 years.
Following Arena’s departure to take charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team, the Galaxy took the first step in moving on from the longtime coach on Monday afternoon with the announcement that Pete Vagenas will take over as general manager. In that role, Vagenas will help the Galaxy usher in a new era with new faces and, perhaps most importantly, the selection of a new manager.
“You don’t replace a Bruce Arena,” Klein said on Monday. “I think we’re thankful for everything he has brought here, and we will move on to the next phase of a very good history for the LA Galaxy. I’m not trying to get the new Bruce Arena. We’re trying to take the next step and learn from what he’s brought to this club and celebrate all that he was. It’s the same thing with players. You don’t replace Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane, but we have to go out and get the next players because the expectations are still the same.
“We’re actively preparing for 2017 now, and we know that a head coach has to be integrated into that process and needs to have a voice in that process, so the sooner the better for us, and we expect to have a new coach in place before the new year.”
To that aim, Klein says the Galaxy have already taken several steps. The Galaxy president says that LA Galaxy II manager Curt Onalfo remains a candidate. Prior to two successful seasons in the USL, Onalfo was an assistant under Arena with both the Galaxy and USMNT, as well as a head coach with D.C. United and the Kansas City Wizards. Klein went on to confirm that Dave Sarachan, another longtime Galaxy assistant, was not a candidate for the job.
Another man linked with the role is former LA Galaxy manager Sigi Schmid, who is currently unemployed after being let go by the Seattle Sounders over the summer. Klein says the club has not spoken to Schmid, while adding that, given his resume, any club in the U.S. would certainly consider him.
In addition, Klein confirmed that the coaching search would primarily be domestic, with several candidates currently holding coaching jobs in MLS. The club is currently in the process of seeking permission to conduct interviews, and expects that process to begin shortly.
“Domestic coaches have certainly had more success in our league than those without,” Klein said. “Not saying that a foreign coach could not be successful with us. We are looking at candidates. We’ve had people contact us from all over the world, names that everyone would know and some that they wouldn’t.
“We’re not ruling it out. It’s likely that we will interview at least one coach that is not from our country. Our search is primarily focused on domestic coaches, but we’d like to interview at least one foreign candidate. ”
Once the coaching search is complete, the focus will turn towards retooling a roster in need of several new faces. Following the departures of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, the Galaxy have several DP spots to fill. Klein says the club intends to build around a core that includes Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Jelle van Damme and Sebastian Lletget going forward, adding pieces that fit in alongside a much younger Galaxy group.
Klein cited the midfield as one position of need, and added that he sees that the league is moving away from older DPs. The Galaxy have moves to make, and with Venegas in place and a coach soon to follow, they’re gearing up for one of the biggest offseasons in club history.
“It’s the end of Bruce’s tenure, which has been very successful. I guess you can see it as an end of an era,” Klein said. “It pertains to Bruce, Robbie Keane certainly and Landon (Donovan) last year as well. I guess you could say that that’s part of it and that we need to transition to a new phase of us, but I think any time you have someone with his personality and time here, it’s a transition.
“We feel that the foundation of this team is very strong. If we started the season today, we have a strong team and we have resources and roster spots and money to go out and improve this team. That needs Pete’s involvement, and that needs a new coach that can take the next step.”