The Bruce Arena era is over for the LA Galaxy. It’s now the Curt Onalfo era.
The Galaxy unveiled Onalfo as the club’s eighth head coach in club history on Tuesday, capping off a search for a replacement for Arena, who departed the team last month to become U.S. Men’s National Team head coach.
“I am extremely excited and honored to become head coach of the LA Galaxy,” said Onalfo in a team statement. “From my time as a player and a coach here, I know that this is the preeminent soccer club in the United States and I look forward to leading this team going forward. We have put together a fully-realized developmental system for our players and we will continue to be aggressive in signing world-class talent in order to build the most complete roster to compete for MLS Cup titles each season.”
Onalfo is the second USL head coach to be “promoted” to his organization’s MLS manager post this season, along with Wilmer Cabrera in Houston. And like Cabrera, Onalfo both has recent USL head coaching experience, as LA Galaxy II’s only head coach to date, and holds prior MLS head coaching experience, having led Kansas City 2007-09 and D.C. United for part of the 2010 season.
There is a subset of Galaxy fans rather unhappy with the appointment, considering Onalfo was fired midseason in both of his past MLS stops, and some wanted a coach with a track record more in line with Arena’s. That said, Arena is definitely one of the top two coaches in MLS history, and arguably the best — pretty much anyone replacing him would have a very difficult act to follow.
So Onalfo’s appointment is a “continuity” selection for the Galaxy, and reports indicate it will represent a shift in the approach of the club in the post-Arena era. According to a recent report from Grant Wahl at SI.com:
Multiple sources close to the Galaxy also say that owner AEG is demanding that the club edge closer to profitability. A Galaxy official denied they’re in cost-cutting mode but acknowledged that LA is undergoing a shift in philosophy.
In that way, Onalfo would appear to be a well-positioned selection, considering his experience leading LA Galaxy II the past three seasons. That team has always been well-stocked with Galaxy academy products and actual Galaxy academy players, so he should have as good a sense as anybody about which academy graduates can make the leap up to productive minutes with the MLS side.
And if there was a complaint about Arena, it was his perceived reluctance to give academy products a chance in competitive action. While few could fault Arena’s reliance on stars and experience when the team won titles, the fact remains that the Galaxy have invested a lot of money and have a lot of talent in their academy program, and if less than one player was breaking through to get substantive minutes each season, then either the players aren’t good enough (again, remember this is considered one of the elite academies in MLS in a talent-rich area) or they aren’t being given enough of a chance.
Given the reported switch in approach and Onalfo’s experience with the young players, expect to see a few more of those academy products play regular minutes next season.