2024 will mark a decade since the Los Angeles Galaxy last won the MLS Cup. Under ex-club president Chris Klein, the MLS’s most successful club has experienced a drastic downfall. Operating under an ethos that prioritized image over results, Klein made a habit of overseeing the creation of unbalanced and shallow squads that struggled to compete. Following the supporter boycott in the most recent season, Klein has stepped down and the Carson club is finally free of all the shackles relating to his term.
After finishing 13th in the Western Conference and equaling the club’s record for goals conceded in a single season(67), changes must be made if the LA Galaxy hopes to move forward. Fortunately, the club seems to have prepared themselves to embody the change supporters are dying to see. For the first time since they became colleagues, Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney and Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Will Kuntz will finally be able to move freely in the transfer window. With eight roster spots to fill with two Designated Players (DPs), a U-22 player, and five other important contributors, they have the potential to cook this winter.
The first step in rebuilding the LA Galaxy was hiring a winning coach. After failing to make it to playoffs in three of the four years before the appointment, 2020 was the year that the Galaxy finally chose the man who they felt would bring back the titles. They brought in Greg Vanney for the 2021 season, who had just won a treble with Toronto FC. In his four years in Toronto Vanney built a winning project and seemed like the perfect candidate to lead Los Angeles back to winning ways.
Unsurprisingly given the state of the club he inherited, Vanney’s hiring didn’t see the club immediately succeed. Having had a year to establish himself, 2022 seemed like the year Vanney would get to show off his team-building skills. Unfortunately, 2022 was also the year the transfer ban was implemented. Under Chris Klein’s watch, the Galaxy did not disclose the total amount paid to Christian Pavón in 2019. This shady administration ended up costing Vanney the ability to fulfill his vision for the squad, and Galaxy fans had to spend another season watching their club disappoint.
Although times have been difficult in Carson, Greg Vanney has still had unrestricted control over the club’s footballing operations. This means that since 2021, he has been largely responsible for the Galaxy’s roster, playstyle, and on-the-pitch product.
An honest assessment of Vanney’s efforts so far is decidedly negative, but largely due to factors outside of any manager’s control. These have limited Vanney’s potential impact to implementing a possession-based style of play and selecting his core players.
Greg Vanney was hired for his ability to implement treble-winning systems throughout a club, but despite having just as much, if not more control than he did in Toronto, he hasn’t been able to build with quite the same freedom for Los Angeles. Regardless, his core players have proven to be capable of putting together some impressive performances. In 2024, with no Chris Klein, no transfer ban, and no shortage of high-value roster spots available, the time for Greg Vanney’s most strenuous stress test has finally come.
Next year, Greg Vanney will likely build his team around these players:
Jonathan Bond/Novak Mićović
Maya Yoshida/Martin Cáceres Jalen Neal Julian Aude/Raheem Sterling
Mark Delgado Riqui Puig Gastón Brugman
DP/U22 Dejan Joveljić DP
Replacing any of these starters comes at a significant cost to Vanney’s system, which is reliant on the completion of certain roles. For example, in 2023 defensive midfielder Gastón Brugman left a hole that no individual or combination of players was able to quite fit into. One of the most important lessons the Galaxy should’ve learned after last season was that as injuries build up, so too do the number of jobs the bench must be prepared to fulfill.
After conceding a record 67 goals last year, it is clear that the current understudies still have some rehearsing to do before taking on such important roles. Hoping for better health next year is naive. Vanney and Kuntz must perform sufficient intake to ensure that the squad is better prepared to roll with the punches when injuries inevitably come in waves next year, as they do every year.
While it is worth admitting that the Galaxy’s squad is still incomplete, as it, stands this roster offers very little depth or threat. To avoid repeating the mistakes of yesteryear, Vanney and Kuntz must identify players who can perform the functions vital to the success of the system. Fortunately, they are no longer inhibited by sanctions or misguided presidents. For the first time in what feels like forever, everything has lined up for the Galaxy to have a real chance at improving
Vanney had no say in the signings of Chicharrito and Jonathan dos Santos. He had no say in dealings that led to sanctions or in the injury crisis that has plagued his side in recent years. Now, for the first time since his debut season in Los Angeles, Greg Vanney is fully in control. The Galaxy must do more than simply perform better in 2024, they have an obligation to succeed. Should the club fail to do so next year, all of the fingers will point in one direction.
PHOTO: AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson