The LA Galaxy have been casting about to fill the hole left by Bruce Arena after he left following the 2016 season, and they may have finally found the true successor in Greg Vanney.
Sure, many did think Sigi Schmid or Guillermo Barros Schelotto would be the answer previously, but there are two big reasons why Vanney is a better choice and an absolute coup for the Galaxy to snap up at this time, as he’s one of the very best coaches in MLS.
Aside from Seattle Sounders lifer Brian Schmetzer, Vanney made Toronto FC the most dominant team in MLS the past half-decade, and most impressively, roused them from a track record where they were the worst club in MLS.
LA aren’t the worst club in MLS, so the climb to the top is not as big in theory, although the Galaxy front office have acknowledged they need to catch up to the evolution in MLS the past five years or so, so there is certainly work to be done. And Vanney’s track record is just what the Galaxy need.
Let’s dig into the two big reasons why Vanney is the right hire right now:
The Galaxy don’t really believe reaching the playoffs is success. It’s lifting trophies, and Vanney has plenty of experience with that.
He led TFC to a domestic treble in 2017, then followed that up with a run to the Concacaf Champions League final in 2018, which they lost only on penalties. Two more Canadian Championships, plus two more trips to the MLS Cup final, show that Vanney was capable of more than just a fluke good season. His teams can win, retool, and win again.
I really don’t think we can overstate how big the turnaround in Toronto was. When Vanney was thrust in as the head coach in Aug. 2014, TFC had never even made the playoffs before, in their first seven seasons. They didn’t make it that year, either, but Vanney finally broke through to reach the postseason in 2015. By 2017, they were atop the MLS heap.
Vanney understands an overhaul and I think he’ll be up for this one. Again, LA aren’t nearly as far adrift as Toronto were, but work is to be done. There needs to be some big adjustments to the roster, and he needs time to implement a coherent system, but gains can be made in pretty short order, honestly.
And that leads me to the second reason Vanney is a great choice right now...
He understands this era of MLS
I think ultimately, this is where Schmid and Schelotto came up short. Both had glory days in MLS previously, but Schmid’s days as a top manager had been slipping for some time when he was fired by the Sounders in 2016, and Schelotto had never managed in MLS and hadn’t played in the league for more than a decade. As a result, I think both were ill-equipped to helm a turnaround, as the likes of Atlanta United and LAFC, and yes, TFC were laying down a marker to show how teams could sign impactful stars in a way we hadn’t seen in a couple decades.
In contrast, the Galaxy have banked on signing stars but the track record has been remarkably spotty. Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos were disappointments, Jonathan dos Santos and Chicharito are to be determined, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was an unqualified success, except when it came to making the Galaxy a true contender.
Meanwhile, TFC got Sebastian Giovinco to pair with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, and the trio was terrific and successful. They sold Giovinco and got Alejandro Pozuelo, not a household name but a player who could rival Giovinco’s production and were once again contenders.
And Vanney didn’t just throw the players on the field and hope for the best, which seemed to be Schelotto’s style. Vanney showed remarkable tactical flexibility, routinely playing his team in a variety of formations and swapping systems depending on the opponent. Instead of confusing his team and leaving them inconsistent, he was able to program them to play several ways, so if a key player went down, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Aside from his ability to get success out of stars, Vanney also made use of young players, Homegrowns and MLS journeymen. He didn’t ignore a component of his roster, instead making use of everyone, which is a rare feat in MLS.
And I think one way Vanney can improve on even the feats of Arena’s tenure with the Galaxy is that I expect he will compete in all competitions. On some level I understand why Arena went for an “MLS Cup or bust” approach every year, but in this day and age, I think top clubs have to compete for as many competitions as possible. So expect Vanney to go deep with his squad and go for the U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup, Leagues Cup, Champions League, Supporters’ Shield, all of it in a given year.
Again, we’ve been here before, thinking the next head coach will be the one to get the job done. I think Greg Vanney is the ideal choice to be the next head coach for the LA Galaxy, and I expect he will make the club a standard-bearer once again.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.