The two Los Angeles soccer teams were in need of new beginnings.
One was obvious. It’s hard to have anything but a new beginning when your team literally doesn’t exist yet. Los Angeles FC has to face the uphill climb that weighs down any expansion team, even with all of the promised resources and glamor that are seemingly on the way.
The other? Well, it was becoming obvious too. Faced with a wave of departures, the LA Galaxy tried to rebuild on the fly. Thus far, it hasn’t worked. The plan, through the first 20 games, failed in the short-term. For a team that’s always in “win-now” mode, it was time to make a change.
On Thursday, two teams just miles apart both made massive announcements, big splashes signaling their intentions to compete for years to come. First came the Galaxy’s announcement that the club had parted ways with first-year coach Curt Onalfo in favor of MLS legend Sigi Schmid. Just hours later, LAFC took their shot, announcing that the club had hired former U.S. Men’s National Team boss Bob Bradley as the club’s first head coach.
Both hires have both a short and long-term view. In the short-term, both teams are looking to compete. The Galaxy need to step up in the here and now while LAFC will be looking to big stars to lead the team from the get-go.
In the long-term, the two are now officially locked into a battle for relevance. Realistically, that battle began on Thursday as both teams stole headlines by announcing their major moves just hours apart. The two may be months away from locking horns on the field, but the battle for the city is now officially underway after months of social media wrangling and campaigning.
Schmid is a face familiar to Los Angeles, even if he’s spent the last decade-and-a-half competing with the Galaxy for MLS supremacy. His MLS resume is matched only by current U.S. Men’s National Team boss Bruce Arena. Two MLS Cups, three Supporters’ Shields, five U.S. Open Cups. Schmid is nothing short of a legend of the American soccer scene.
Almost exactly one year to the day after his firing by the Seattle Sounders, Schmid now finds himself in an opposite scenario. Last season, he was fired just days before the Sounders brought in their own midfield ace in Nicholas Lodeiro. Now, he’s tasked with integrating dos Santos alongside a team with plenty of talent but little success this season. It’s a homecoming for Schmid, who led the Galaxy to the club’s first MLS Cup in 2002.
Schmid will be motivated, especially in Saturday’s debut against his former team. After watching his Sounders team go on to win an MLS Cup under Brian Schmetzer, Schmid will no doubt be looking to prove himself once again. At this point, his resume speaks for itself, but Schmid will obviously be looking to add to it in the wake of his firing last season.
On the other side of LA soccer, Bradley also knows a thing or two about motivation following an unceremonious departure. Just two-and-a-half months after becoming the Premier League’s first American manager, Bradley was fired by Swansea City, dismissed before getting a chance to build the team in his image. It’s an opportunity he’ll no doubt get with the expansion LAFC, and it’s one he’s succeeded in before.
Bradley’s 1998 Chicago Fire team is still the one all expansion teams are compared to. Featuring a unique mix of foreign and international players, Bradley’s Fire went on to win the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double. No other expansion team has gotten anywhere near that type of success since. Bradley won’t be expected to reach that level from the get-go, but he has the MLS track record and has proven to be an expert tactician with both the U.S. Men’s National Team and during his stint in Europe.
The LA soccer scene has changed in countless ways since Bradley departed Chivas USA in 2006. Now, he takes charge of their spiritual successor, a team that’s looking to shake up the city’s soccer culture from within the city proper.
Both teams face tests in the years to come. Can the Galaxy overcome their Carson location to stay relevant in a famously-ambivalent LA market? Can LAFC realistically hope to make up 20 years of lost time in an effort to catch or even surpass their local rivals?
The battle truly began on Thursday as the team took part in their first ever battle, and the two men now tasked with leading the charge are certainly aware of what lies ahead.