In the clearest signal yet that the LA
Galaxy recognizes it needs an overhaul in how it operates, the five-time MLS champions have hired Dutchman Dennis te Kloese as general manager.
He joins the Galaxy after serving as the director of national teams for the Mexican federation, but he knows the U.S. scene very well.
He worked for Chivas USA as director of soccer for four seasons (2005-08) after moving from Chivas in Mexico. Perhaps no one has more knowledge of the Mexican-American player market than te Kloese, who was instrumental in convincing Jonathan Gonzalez to file a switch of association and play for Mexico's national team.
Te Kloese joins a team that has not announced a decision on a head coach for 2019. Dominic Kinnear finished the 2018 MLS season as the Galaxy's interim coach after Sigi Schmid stepped down in September. Former Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter was seen with Galaxy president Chris Klein, his former roommate at Indiana, AEG president and CEO Dan Beckerman and te Kloese at courtside of Monday's Los Angeles Lakers NBA game.
The Galaxy has many decisions to make in terms of rebuilding its roster after failing to make the playoffs in 2017 and 2018, the first times it missed out on the postseason in the last decade. It is expected to re-sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic but will likely have to dispose of one of its three Designated Players -- brothers Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini -- to do so.
Giovani dos Santos, who scored only three goals in 14 games in his fourth season in MLS, is the player most likely to depart, if the Galaxy can find a buyer.
“I can tell you that I've known [Giovani] for many years," te Kloese said. "I know him, I know his family. I think my relationship with [the dos Santos brothers] have nothing to do with my responsibility with the Galaxy. I will always make the best decision for the team, for the organization with Giovani or any other player."
Te Kloese was quick to point out, though, the work that needs to be done in the areas of player development and scouting -- areas he has spent much of his career in -- and that provides a big opportunity.
The Galaxy was the first MLS team to sign a Homegrown player -- Tristan Bowen in 2008 -- the first MLS team to add a USL second team -- LA Galaxy II in 2014 -- and founded the LA Galaxy Academy Academic Program -- a full-time high school program for its youth players -- in 2015.
But it's failed to successfully integrate Homegrown players into its first team. Its academy has produced three of best of the players in the country in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 age groups -- Alex Mendez, Uly Llanez and Efrain Alvarez -- but only Alvarez, who scored 12 goals in 16 USL games for LA Galaxy II, is signed to the Galaxy. Mendez, the MVP of the recent Concacaf U-20 Championship, signed with German club Freiburg, while Llanez, his U.S. U-20 teammate, will likely sign with Wolfsburg when he turns 18 in 2019.
Te Kloese wasn't shy to point out that the Galaxy is a great opportunity for someone with his ambitions, but it will require a lot of work.
"We need a clear idea of where we want to go," he said. "We have to have a clear identity in how we develop our players, and I do think that is a big challenge, because obviously the first team of the Galaxy has always and will always be known as a place for high-profile players which make a direct impact and carry the team to big success. But I think there is also a need for a little bit of a more local identity, close to those players [in the academy that] the Galaxy has invested highly in in the last few years.”
Te Kloese said that there is a big pool of talent in the Los Angeles.
"There is a big opportunity to improve," he said, "in formalizing our academy program and professionalizing our academy, to carry ourselves sometimes in a different way. Being more open to opportunities and being clearer about the expectations and what would be the pathway for players."
A big part of te Kloese's career has been spent in player development with Chivas and Tigres and in the Mexico youth national teams, and he comes from the Netherlands, where the soccer culture thrives on the promotion of young talent.
He would not comment on the circumstances that led Mendez and Llanez to leave the Galaxy for Germany, but said it is important for the Galaxy to do everything to allow Alvarez -- who will have heavy commitments with Mexico's U-17s in 2019 -- to thrive.
"It's also up to us to get the best out of him," te Kloese said, "so he serves as someone that other kids in the academy and in the area look up to and say, 'Yes, there is an opportunity and there is a fair opportunity also.' A lot of it goes to the technical staff and how we build our identity and our club. Our technical staff needs to be open to that because there is a lot of investment going towards that, a lot of resources. On the other hand, there is a golden opportunity. There is a lot of talent and it has shown over the last few years that you can get players out of this area who grow into very competitive and good players not only here but abroad on other national teams. That is one of the things I am very excited about."