Not long after Ulysses Llanez was signed by Wolfsburg upon turning 18 years of age, LA Galaxy academy coach Brian Kleiban was done. Confirmed by the club on Wednesday morning, the highly regarded U-19 coach was dismissed by the organization, which didn’t elaborate on the reasoning.
MLSsoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal has a comprehensive write-up explaining the situation, but the speculation is Kleiban faced major scrutiny after two of the brightest stars in the academy in Alex Mendez and Uly Llanez chose not to sign first team contracts, opting to head to the Bundesliga. The problem? Both are represented by his brother Brian Kleiban, raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
General manager Dennis te Kloese didn’t mince words when approached by Stejskal, expressing a desire to bring the pair back to Los Angeles.
Asked if either were receptive to returning to California, te Kloese – who met Llanez and Mendez, both of whom are eligible to represent Mexico as well as the US, during his tenure with the Mexican Football Federation – said “maybe” the players are but that “their agent hasn’t been.”
If te Kloese’s words needed the proper context, Doug McIntyre provided it with the revelation Mendez and Llanez are earning, in his words, peanuts.
Had the deals Llanez and Mendez received in Germany been comparable to the contracts signed by fellow Americans Weston McKennie or Josh Sargent, the Galaxy probably wouldn’t have had a major beef. But multiple sources told me independently that Llanez and Mendez are making peanuts with Wolfsburg and Freiburg, respectively, about 1,000 euros a month. My understanding is that’s less that the Galaxy offered them to stay. Makes you wonder what kind of advice they were getting. (Kleiban did not respond to a request for comment.)
Making the leap to develop in a first-class environment is a worthy pursuit and the correct path for exceptionally talented Americans, but you would expect an asset of his caliber to rake in more.
While we still don’t have the full picture of what has unfolded, te Kloese obviously considers the losses of Mendez and Llanez a huge opportunity missed, and ultimately decided to hold Gary Kleiban responsible.