Alex Kozela has been a Galaxy fan since childhood, so for him the team’s home opener has always been a rite of spring, a source of hope and anticipation.
On Saturday, when the team returned to Dignity Health Sports Park for the first time in five months, Kozelak battled through afternoon traffic, found a parking spot and made his way to the stadium entrance as usual. Only this time it didn’t go in. Instead, he stood with a group of supporters and season ticket holders outside the stadium’s main gates to protest the team’s direction.
“The club has lost sight of what is really important to the fans and the fans and the community,” Kozela said. “We are here to support the team and give our money to the organization because we love this club. I’ve liked it since I was little.”
It is a love, he said, that has become unrequited.
“There’s a disconnect,” he said. “The results on the field have not been good. But not even the results obtained outside the field. What is the view? What is the plan for the next five years? What is the LA Galaxy’s identity?
“I wish I knew that from above. Because we haven’t achieved that in a long time.”
It’s no secret that galaxies have lost their way. The team has lost more games than it has won in the last six seasons and has not played in MLS Cup since 2014. So when the club claims a record five league championships and nine Cup final appearances, it feels like more. a history lesson rather than a contemporary experience.
Even Greg Vanney, who played in the club’s first trophy-winning team in 1998, acknowledged that when he returned as manager two years ago, he was hired to “get this club back to where people expected it to be”.
That route is turning out to be longer and more arduous than expected.
Vanney, the fifth coach in seven seasons, has guided the Galaxy to back-to-back winning seasons and playoff appearances since 2021, but Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver left the team winless in three games this season, its worst start in 13 years.
The Galaxy (0-1-2) will improve. Designated players Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, the team’s captain and leading scorer the past two seasons, and winger Douglas Costa were injured the first three games, while Brazilian right back Lucas Calegari replaced two-time MLS star Julián Araujo. , has not yet played a minute. Meanwhile, a reported deal with Argentina left-back Julián Aude has not been completed and centre-back Séga Coulibaly is attending to personal business in France.
“We’re going through some big injuries with some guys that we’re still trying to get through the doors and integrate into the team,” Vanney said. “It’s a process of continuing to improve every game and picking up points along the way.”
Galaxy forward Tyler Boyd (11) and Vancouver Whitecaps defender Javain Brown (23) compete Saturday in Carson.
(Ringo HW Chiu/Associated Press)
With nine of the 14 teams in the Western Conference qualifying for the playoffs, if the Galaxy can cloud a mirror this fall, they should be in. And at full strength, the team has enough talent to go a long way once they get there.
But on-field performance is perhaps the easiest thing the Galaxy need to fix. The club’s relationship with its most loyal fans may prove more difficult to repair.
The club’s four main teams said they are boycotting home games until the Galaxy make some front-office changes, chief among them the dismissal of club president Chris Klein, who signed a multi-year contract extension over the winter despite the Major League termination. Soccer, 2019 season team fined for violating budget and roster guidelines.
It is too early to measure the impact of the boycott. According to an LA County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, Saturday’s protest drew only 250 to 300 people, and the in-stadium attendance was 23,112, fourth best in MLS last weekend.
That count, however, was based on tickets distributed, and not an actual cap count, a number the team did not disclose. (The team also disputed law enforcement’s estimate of the number of protesters.) In any case, it was the smallest attendance for a Galaxy home opener since 2013 and the Victoria Block, normally the supporters’ section of the north grandstand, was mostly empty — so much so that Cozmo, the Galaxy’s blue mascot hairy, spent much of the game banging on bulletin boards to break the silence behind the end line.
“Despite the boycott, the stadium seemed full,” said Cary Hall, a longtime season ticket holder. “People were enthusiastic, apparently. What was missing was singing and drumming.”
Galaxy fans protested in front of the team before a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday.
(Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, appears willing to wait out the boycott, aware that firing Klein would be unwise for a couple of reasons. First, because he would respect the demands of the fans, and second, because Klein’s presidency has coincided with the franchise’s transition from perennial champion to mediocrity, he has been a huge success in terms of business, saying that he has broken the franchise record for sponsors. ticket sales last season.
That’s not to say AEG isn’t worried. The Galaxy have long boasted of being the league’s model franchise, but that mantle recently passed to LAFC, the team’s neighborhood rivals, who have won one MLS Cup and two Supporters’ Shields in the four years the Galaxy have won them. just two playoff games.
“I work in youth football, and literally every kid can tell you who the LA football team is,” Kozela said. “They’ll say LAFC.”
If the Galaxy can’t beat LAFC, they can at least copy the team, having recently lured Will Kuntz, senior vice president of football operations and assistant general manager, away from LAFC. Kuntz, who is well-respected in MLS circles, said his role with the Galaxy remains a work in progress, though he may act as a firewall between the president and the soccer team. This would allow Klein to continue to grow his income while removing any responsibility or blame for what happens on the field.
LAFC’s headquarters with co-presidents is similarly structured with Larry Freedman handling business operations and John Thorrington handling sporting decisions.
It remains to be seen if this is another attempt to change the Titanic’s deck chairs or something that will repair the Galaxy’s shattered reputation. Regardless, the resistance seems to be cracking already.
“They have a credibility problem,” said John, a longtime fan who would only give his first name, who questioned the wave of banners among supporters and calls for Klein’s firing. “He has to go. He is the problem.”
But when the protest was over and the banners were taken away, John said he planned to take his usual seat and cheer on the team, just like he did in the good old days.