Q&A: Chris Klein addresses LA Galaxy search for new head of soccer operations, coaching search and more

LOS ANGELES -- LA Galaxy president Chris Klein addressed media on Tuesday in the club's final media availability of 2018. 

On the dismissal of Pete Vagenas:

KLEIN: "It’s always difficult. Pete’s done a lot for this club, both as a player and in our front office. But we had said we are evaluating our soccer operations and don’t rest this at the feet of one person, but we all have to look at ourselves and take responsibility. We are going to hire a new lead for our soccer operations. That is the big thing to come out of this and to take away from this and we hope to do that in short order."

Will there be more changes in the front office?

KLEIN: “That can be for someone to come in and evaluate. We have some good people. The biggest thing that it needs is structure and organization – clearly identifiable both internally and externally. I wouldn’t expect anything coming quickly, other than the news of someone being hired.”

Do you expect the coach and GM to be one person?

KLEIN: “We’ve talked about that and we’re looking for the right people. What you’re seeing in our league and in other leagues is assembling a group of talented people to tackle this as a team. we need to do that. And it’s not just a GM or a coach. It extends through our scouting and certainly beyond with development and things like that. We have a number of things to do. It starts with a leader in those areas

Are you speaking to any candidate in particular for the soccer operations lead?

KLEIN: We’re not going to discuss names publicly. We’ve never done that. We are going to bring in a new person to lead the soccer operations of our club.

Any timeline?

KLEIN: “I don’t like to put a timeline on because then you have to stick to it, but we have a lot of things to do in the off-season and we need to get started fairly quickly. I wouldn’t expect this to take too long.”

So, you don’t expect a coaching candidate to hold both positions?

KLEIN: “We’re not going to lock ourselves into anything, but I would say that it need a group of talented people, not just one person. You’re seeing that across sports and across our league. We have to build our club and we have structure our club in the right way in 2019 and beyond

What are the club’s priorities this offseason?

KLEIN: “The priority for me is to hire a leader for our soccer operations. That is first step. And then we’ll go on from there. Obviously, we need a coach for next year. So, I would put that as priority 1B. But first things first and then we’ll continue to move through it. We have to take a look. That will up to that person to take a look at some of the progress we made this year and some of the further progress that we still need to make.

Will the soccer operations person hold only one role or multiple roles?

KLEIN: “That person (leader of soccer operations) would be general manager. It would be one lead person.”

How much roster turnover is expected?

KLEIN: “That will be up to someone to come in and evaluate. We have some very good pieces that did some good things this year. But the team needs a little bit more structure and balance, and that would be up to the new coach, the new general manager to evaluate those decisions as we head into 2019.”

Is this an admission that the club needs to start over?

KLEIN: "I don’t know if it’s that we need to start over again, but I think what it is is since Bruce left, we were a club that was driven by one person on the soccer side for so long. And when we had to make changes quickly, I think we got the structure right, but we didn’t get everything right. We’re going to structure our club right. For the short term and the long-term so that we can succeed. The boxes have to be right and we have to go out and get the right people."

What are the club’s plans for Zlatan?

KLEIN: "Our plan is to have Zlatan back at the club. What he did this year was certainly well-documented, both from the impact he had on our team with 22 goals and 10 assists, that is one thing. But he wants to win. And we want to win with him. Our intention is to bring him back and have him be part of the club in 2019."

What do you need to do to keep him?

KLEIN: "We’re having conversations. I know he has certain things that he wants…he’s a priority to keep him here. It’s a possibility [that he’d have to be a DP]. We’re just in initial conversations. The season just ended a week (ago), we’ve had very good conversations and continue to progress in those and hopefully to a resolution that is good for Zlatan and the club."

Is the team planning to buy out Giovani dos Santos?

KLEIN: “We’re not going to comment on any individual players. Again, it would be up to someone else to come in and evaluate what is best for individual players and the club as a whole.”

Is Zlatan under contract for 2019? Will the team hold him to his contract in the event he tries to leave?

KLEIN: “We’re a club that is about people. He has a contract for 2019.”

What is Ashley Cole’s status for 2019?

KLEIN: "I don’t have to tell you guys Ashley has had an amazing career. He had a good season, too. But in saying that he’s 37 years old, so it is a conversation between Ashley and the club, to see he wants and what’s best for us heading into 2019."

Where is the club at with the coaching search?

KLEIN: "We’ve had numerous conversations with coaching candidates. But at this point, we have to allow the lead person to come in and take that over. I believe very strongly that it is the most important partnership. The head coach is going to be the person most often in front of [media], but there has to be a partnership to build the club. And when we get that person hired they have a good understanding of all the people we’ve talked to as part of our interview process. And they’ll take that over."

How do you assess how Kinnear did in 2018?

KLEIN: "Very good. He came in and he structured the group. I think you saw that we had a good team organization, a good team spirit as well and the guys really battled and fought. I give him a tremendous amount of credit. One half didn’t allow us to get there. But as a club … I just said this to the guys in there … we have to look at the whole season. So we have to go back and evaluate why we ended up in that position. What we saw in the last five games, if you saw that over the course of the year, maybe. But there are 34 games in the season, and we’re not in the business to deal with maybes."

Will the club look at how they deal with injuries after dealing with several muscle injuries this season?

KLEIN: "On the coaching staff, it’s medical, it’s data, it’s sports science, it’s everything and how it comes together. That evaluation is underway because we had muscle injuries that kept recurring. In our league, you need your most important to play consistently."

Is Dom being considered for the head coaching role?

KLEIN: "The name we’ve considered, the name we’ve said publicly, is Dominic. But again, someone is going to come in and there has to be a relationship there and has to make the decision with the support of me and the support of ownership."

Was Pete pushed out during the summer and did staff band together to help keep his job?

KLEIN: I don’t know where you get your information from. I had a conversation with Pete this weekend. Again, he’s been part of this club a long time and is incredibly professional in the way that he dealt with that. I won’t go into the timing of our decision, but we talked about evaluating from a structure side, from a soccer operations side and looking at bringing in a new leader, we felt that it was one change we needed to make to give the new person a fresh start.”

Where do you fit in inside the soccer operations department?

KLEIN: “It needs leadership. I don’t believe that one person solves everything. It needs a team. You mentioned sports science, you mentioned scouting, you mentioned coaching. Certainly, a general manager can structure the club, but it needs a lot to build a modern club. And that’s our ambition, to be the best and to structure our club the right way with the right people and give it the right resources to be able to succeed and support those people. That’s the direction we’re going to take for 2019.”

Is it necessary to have all the decisions by end of the year?

KLEIN: "I don’t want to say there’s no timeline. We have an internal timeline, but I’m not going to tell you guys. We have a timeline because there are decisions that need to be made. Certainly, we don’t want to make those without people that are going to be in charge heading into next year. Our intention is to move through this as quickly as we can but still understanding we need to make the right decisions."

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