Thursday, July 27 was an active day in Major League Soccer. First, Kevin Baxter of the LA Times broke the news that the LA Galaxy would be letting manager Curt Onalfo go after a disastrous five months in charge, and would be replacing him with storied MLS manager Sigi Schmid. Then, the Galaxy’s incoming in-city rival LAFC, who only have two players at this point, nabbed former USMNT coach Bob Bradley as their first manager.
The Galaxy are a bit of a disaster at this point. Struggling to fit together a mismatched roster built around old veterans and young talent, they are muddling in ninth in a forgiving Western Conference having lost their past five matches. The fanbase is understandably frustrated, given the front office’s backfiring offseason moves — signing Jermaine Jones was a blunder unmatched in recent MLS history — and the performance of Onalfo, hired to replace legend Bruce Arena, who had accepted the USMNT job last November.
Questioning the Galaxy higher-ups’ decision to bring in Onalfo, who had coached the Galaxy’s USL squad prior to being promoted, is very fair. The former ‘90s MLS player had failed twice in two previous head coaching stints — with the Kansas City Wizards from 2007 to 2009 and D.C. United in 2010 — and throwing a coach with that pedigree into the fire that is the LA Galaxy was always a risk.. Admirable they looked to a guy willing to trust the young guns, which, to Onalfo’s credit, he has done, but he was never going to have the man-management skills or tactical creativity and assertiveness to get something out of a squad that is not especially well-built to begin with.
Reportedly, Galaxy players have admitted they’ve been under-prepared for matches, usually a telling sign the coach is not doing his job correctly. Watching some of their recent games, it’s evident to any observer’s eye that cohesion, chemistry and, especially damning, effort have been severely lacking throughout the team, which is a very good reason for why they’ve given up four goals to New England, three to San Jose, and six to RSL in the past four weeks. None of those clubs are in the playoffs right now.
Schmid is a American soccer legend. He’ll come in, whip this group into shape, and make the decisions that need to be made. Namely, Jones does not need to start. In fact, he shouldn’t, or a playoff run is that much more unlikely.
Whether Sigi can put this team in the 2017 playoffs is a question that will be answered by the Galaxy’s ability to stop leaking goals. Jelle Van Damme and Ashley Cole are now officially aging stars, Daniel Steres has never been particularly impressive but with JVD slowing down a bit he hasn’t exactly improved, and I don’t even know who LA’s right back is. Bradley Diallo? Hugo Arellano? Robbie Rogers on crutches? That might be a problem.
Add in a ton of attacking injuries and international absences and an utter lack of defensive effort from pretty much everybody and you have a recipe for 6-2 home losses to Real Salt Lake. That’s on Onalfo, and that’s on the front office. We’ll see if Schmid can clean up this mess and salvage something from this season. It will help Schmid that considering how bad the Galaxy is right now and the fact they are currently on a five game losing streak and haven’t won in over a month, they are only five points away from a playoff spot. The Seattle Sounders had a similar bad stretch and sacked Schmid for Brian Schmetzer and they won the MLS Cup. So you never know.
Across the city, LAFC is taking steps to become Atlanta United version 2.0 with the hiring of Bradley, obviously a high-profile guy whose managed a World Cup and teams ranging from Princeton to Swansea City to the Egyptian national team. He’s not Tata Martino, but he’s certainly not Curt Onalfo.
LAFC only have two players who are currently on loan to USL’s Orange County SC so we can’t diagnose any kind of system Bradley will implement, or try and asses the roster such owners like Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson have put together. We do know that he’s traveled the world many times over, so he’s seen plenty of soccer from all sorts of leagues. They’ll have their fair share of superstars, but don’t be surprised to see some Scandinavian or low-level French guys dotting next year’s starting lineup. Maybe even an Egyptian.