Image: Wikimedia Commons / Jamie Smed
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Jamie Smed

Can Greg Vanney bring back LA Galaxy’s glory days?

Amid mounting speculation, Greg Vanney was unveiled as the LA Galaxy’s new head coach earlier this week. The former-USMNT defender, who made 193 league appearances for the Galaxy, replaces Guillermo Barros Schelotto at Dignity Health Sports Park. Vanney’s appointment ends three months of interim management in Los Angeles, marking the start of a new era for Major League Soccer’s most successful franchise.

The Galaxy’s decline has been precipitous since Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) was introduced in 2015. The Californian outfit, MLS Cup champions a year earlier, have failed to adapt to the modern era of American soccer, bouncing between ageing Designated Players (DP) in their quest for dominance.

LA Galaxy, once recognised as America’s only internationally significant soccer club, has slipped into obscurity in recent years. The Galaxy have reached the post-season just twice since 2016, finishing tenth, eight points behind the San Jose Earthquakes, last season.

For the club of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Galaxy’s downfall has been significant – and widely well-received among supporters of their Western Conference rivals. Sigi Schmid, Curt Onalfo, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto have each tried (and failed) to rollback the years in California. So why should Galaxy fans be optimistic about Vanney’s prospects?

To begin with, the 46-year-old is a proven winner in the dugout. Vanney’s six-year stint as the head coach of Toronto FC transformed the Canadian outfit, leading them to 112 wins in 250 games coached. In every respect, the UCLA graduate is the most successful coach in TFC’s history.

For the Virginia-native the project in Los Angeles is personal

Vanney’s coaching career peaked in 2017, when he led Toronto to a historic treble and within a penalty shoutout of the CONCACAF Champions League title a season later. He was recognised as North America’s coach of the year, sweeping continental and national versions of the award.

Toronto’s 2017 roster is widely regarded as one of the best in MLS history, an achievement buttressed by Vanney’s proficiency as a tactician and motivator. Toronto crumbled a year later, only to remerge as one of the strongest teams in MLS in 2019.

For the Virginia-native, however, the project in Los Angeles is personal.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to coach the LA Galaxy,” said Vanney. “The LA Galaxy are an iconic club with a rich history in Los Angeles, MLS and North American soccer over the last 25 years.

“I am committed to working tirelessly for this club, our fans and Los Angeles to win a championship. I look forward to this new challenge in my career and am eager to get started.”

Galaxy President Chris Klein spoke to reporters following Tuesday’s announcement. “Greg is focused on building a culture that will serve as the foundation of this club,” Klein said. “He is detail-oriented, a fierce competitor and has a deep understanding of our league and what it takes to succeed on and off the field. He will be an outstanding ambassador for the LA Galaxy, our supporters and Los Angeles.”

A cursory glance at last season’s standings says all you need to know about the Galaxy. The cards are stacked against Greg Vanney in Los Angeles – if he turns the club around, his stock will rise exponentially.

Journalists have spent weeks talking about how Vanney and the Galaxy are a match made in heaven, now is the time for them to prove it.

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