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Is Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the hot seat at the LA Galaxy?

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Exploring the context after a disappointing restart.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy are 0-3-2 to start the 2020 season. Their defense remains error-prone, and their attack has sputtered all year.

Does that mean head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s position is in danger?

There were plenty of Galaxy fans clamoring for the Argentine’s dismissal following a frustrating 1-1 draw Thursday against the Houston Dynamo, a result that the team seemed determined to give away, as they crashed out of the MLS is Back Tournament before even reaching the knockout stage.

And with the news Friday that Frank de Boer has left Atlanta United, which suffered a similarly poor tournament themselves, the idea that the MLS restart event is a mulligan for every single team is no longer true.

Given the circumstance — of a tournament to be played on short rest with most teams unable to properly train for more than a couple weeks after several months off due to the coronavirus, and teams having played so few games this year — a manager firing coming out of the tournament seems harsh.

But De Boer’s issues were long-standing and the obvious friction with his own roster indicated it wasn’t possible to turn things around in Atlanta. Aren’t LA in a similar situation?

Yes and no. De Boer had the dual benefit and curse of taking over the MLS Cup champions — basically, he was told not to screw it up. He did.

Schelotto, in contrast, was handed a roster that was rapidly falling behind others in MLS, in need of a retool and refresh.

And so, Schelotto is likely not on the hot seat for the Galaxy. There are two main factors why:

  • Two of his three best players, Jonathan dos Santos and Chicharito, played a combined one game in Orlando. It’s hard to evaluate the squad when you’re missing your top players for nearly all of it.
  • The Galaxy have consistently maintained they need time to rebuild the roster. While some of the signings made, like Giancarlo Gonzalez and Emiliano Insua (who is admittedly new and still finding his footing in MLS) have not covered themselves in glory for a porous defense, the timing of the coronavirus shutdown also shuttering the transfer window means the Galaxy can point to that and say they didn’t have the full opportunity to fix the roster because they couldn’t sign players (besides Homegrowns and Los Dos players) since mid-March.

Are these explanations fair? That’s probably in the eye of the beholder. I think it’s reasonable to say LA would have played better if dos Santos and Chicharito could have each played three games in Orlando. I also think it’s highly likely an international signing or two were postponed or scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So that’s why I don’t think Schelotto’s job is in danger right now. The team is sputtering, no doubt, but the sample size remains tiny. I think Dennis te Kloese, Chris Klein and the rest of the organization are standing behind Schelotto for now.

Having said that, I think there are two mitigating factors here that could make his standing shaky. One is seeing whether his approach and preferred style of play is the problem. Schelotto found considerable success with Boca Juniors, one of the most stressful jobs in world soccer. But did some of that success come through a talent advantage in Argentina and South America? Does his style work better there than in MLS?

We saw a good 25-minute spell at the end of the game against the Portland Timbers where LA’s attack finally started to click. Take into account most of that came with the Timbers down a man, but nevertheless. Instead of whacking blind looping crosses into the mixer, again and again, they built up, they found ways to mix up their approach, and they got a goal from the run of play by Chicharito.

It turns out that was just the second goal from the run of play scored by LA so far this season, however. Otherwise, there was a golazo from Cristian Pavon, two Pavon penalties and an own goal. Meanwhile, the defense, which was a mess he inherited, largely remains that way. All of this is to ask: Should there have been more improvement over the last year and a half? It’s an honest question.

And that brings the other part that could change the current status quo of Schelotto’s job being safe: The locker room. If the players are behind him, his job security will improve, and the players who speak to reporters consistently give off an attitude of being united and working hard with Schelotto. In contrast, players were openly speaking out against De Boer in Atlanta just a few months into his tenure last year. If Pavon, Chicharito or dos Santos start complaining, then the end may be near.

But there’s no public dissension right now. 2020 has been a weird year, and while things are certainly not going right for the Galaxy right now, are they so bad they cancel out the mitigating factors? Again, I suspect at least some of the fans and the front office may have different opinions on that front, but in following and covering this league for the last decade, I think Guillermo Barros Schelotto is going to get more run and more time to try and turn the LA Galaxy around. Will it happen? We’ll have to watch for ourselves.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.