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Ruud Gullit is packing his bags and Alexi Lalas is looking for work for the first time in years. What is left in the wake of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s blood-letting is a team in need of direction and in desperate need of someone capable of cleaning up the mess.
If Gullit’s struggles reminded us of anything, it is that coaches who are unfamiliar with MLS are always going to struggle to adapt to the league, its players and its unique rules. With that in mind, the Galaxy must seriously consider candidates with knowledge of the league, its teams and its players.
That is why, according to West Coast sources, U.S. Olympic team head coach and U.S. national team assistant Peter Nowak is a leading candidate to become the Galaxy’s new head coach. AEG president Tim Leiweke has yet to contact any candidates, but sources tell SBI that Nowak is at the top of Leiweke’s short list for the job.
Nowak spent three seasons as head coach of D.C. United, leading the team to an MLS Cup title in 2004, his first season in charge. Nowak left D.C. after seeing out his contract following the 2006 season, after which he joined the staff of U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley as Bradley’s lead assistant.
Nowak is currently in China with the U.S. Olympic team, which plays a crucial match against Nigeria on Wednesday.
So why Nowak? The Galaxy clearly need someone with MLS experience, but also someone with championship experience. Nowak is considered as a coach who could step in and salvage a sinking ship in Los Angeles this year.
A former Polish national team star and standout midfielder with the Chicago Fire, which he captained to the 1998 MLS Cup title, Nowak has shown an ability to work well with veterans and young players alike.
Galaxy interim president Tom Payne would likely get an endorsement for Nowak from his own older brother, D.C. United president Kevin Payne, who hired Nowak to coach D.C. in 2004.
What other candidates are in the mix? You can expect former U.S. national team head coach Bruce Arena to be interviewed. Arena still boasts the best resume of any American coach in soccer history and expressed a desire to get back into coaching when interviewed in late spring. His relationship with Donovan is well-documented, and he also has a long-standing relationship with current interim Galaxy head coach Cobi Jones, who played for him on the national team. Arena struggled with the New York Red Bulls, but considering the list of accomplished coaches to struggle in New York, it isn’t likely to be held against Arena in this process.
So what’s my take? Nowak is the perfect candidate and makes the most sense. I also think a re-charged Bruce Arena could step in and straighten things out. After that, it’s tough to think of too many candidates who fit the MLS experience criteria that would also be capable of jumping right into the current LA mess and turning things around this year.
Who do you think the Galaxy should hire to straighten things out? Share your thoughts below.