For more than a decade, Chris Klein was one of the league’s most reliable midfielders. Now, he's being given the opportunity to be even more influential.
Fresh off the LA Galaxy’s 2010 roster, the recently retired Klein stepped off the playing fields and into the club’s front office as he was last week named Senior Director of the LA Galaxy Academy Program and Special Projects.
“To be real honest, as I finished playing I became more and more excited about beginning the next chapter,” Klein told MLSsoccer.com. “I was really excited to get started and sink my teeth into this and learn and evaluate, to see how we can improve upon what has been a very good foundation.”
As the director of the Galaxy’s Academy Program, Klein’s responsibility will be to develop young talent. With an immense number of youth in the Southern California area, Klein’s task is twofold: “How can we get players that grow up locally in Southern California to not only want to play for the Galaxy but to be able to play for the Galaxy,” he said.
Like any youth development program, identifying talented youths and helping develop the youngsters is the main focus, but Klein also wants to broaden the Galaxy's reach.
“The idea with our academy is getting players at a younger and younger age, to be able to develop them over a longer period of time,” he said. “In this country, you’ve always had an issue where you look and find the best players and you form a team. We want to take a different approach with the Galaxy. We want to find players early, work with them, invest in them and show that we can develop them over many years to prepare them to play the professional game.”
One area in which Klein hopes to continue moving forward is the recruitment of Hispanic players, in particular Mexican-American youth. The hope is likely to find a player like Omar Gonzalez, but to find him when he’s 12 or 13.
“The Mexican-American population is very strong here and it would be foolish for us not to look at that market,” Klein said. “It’s definitely part of our program now and will be part of our program going forward.”
Ultimately, the goal is to develop talented players and to have them stay locally.
“We want to keep our players here,” Klein said. “We feel it’s the best way for our league to grow and for the LA Galaxy to continue to be not only the strongest brand in MLS but year after year the best team in MLS.”
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