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Commentary: Galaxy President Chris Klein’s dismissal was inevitable amid record poor stretch

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When Bruce Arena left the Galaxy for the U.S. national team after the 2016 season, club President Chris Klein and Dan Beckerman, CEO of the team’s parent company AEG, vowed to take the team in a new direction.

They succeeded, with the last seven years marking the worst stretch in franchise history. So Tuesday, Beckerman finally determined that direction wasn’t the right one, firing Klein after 11 seasons as the club’s top executive.

According to people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak on the record, the decision was finalized in a series of meetings Tuesday morning. The Galaxy (2-9-3) are last in the 29-team MLS table, have been shut out seven times in 14 matches and have the worst goal differential in the league, making Tuesday’s move not only necessary, but long overdue.

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Changing head coaches four times and general managers three times over the past seven seasons had failed to right the team, so this time the ax fell on Klein.

The winningest team in MLS history and a five-time league champion, the Galaxy have lost more games than all but two Western Conference teams in the last seven seasons, reaching the playoffs just twice. Off the field, the team has been rocked in recent months by severe sanctions stemming from a signing that violated MLS rules and a boycott by four of the club’s five main supporters groups, which have refused to attend home games as long as Klein remained in charge.

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“As a club we have not achieved our goals or met the standard that we have established for the Galaxy,” Beckerman said in a statement. “We believe it is in the best interest of the club to make a change and begin a comprehensive process to seek new leadership that will return the club to the level that our fans and partners expect.”

Greg Vanney, the team’s coach and sporting director, will continue to lead all soccer operations, reporting directly to Beckerman.

Reached by text message Klein, a record-setting midfielder for three MLS teams, including the Galaxy, politely declined comment, instead issuing a three-sentence statement through the Galaxy that read, in part: “My family and I love this club and I’m grateful to have spent 16 years with this organization as a player and an executive. Thank you to our supporters, partners, players, coaches, and staff for all of the passion, dedication and hard work.”

The Galaxy won the MLS Cup in Klein’s second season as president, but they haven’t been back to the title game since, the longest drought in club history. And while Klein helped the team to records in both ticket and sponsorship revenues last season, announced attendance is down more than 2,000 this season and the current turmoil has greatly damaged the brand, chipping away at whatever gains Klein made.

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The Galaxy’s disintegration from perennial contenders into a precipitous collapse really began in 2017 when Klein and Beckerman slashed more than $10 million in designated-player salaries. The result, a last-place finish, marked the worst season in franchise history.

It’s a dive the Galaxy never fully recovered from, finishing a point out of the conference cellar in 2020 before falling to last in the league again this season. The last two home games have drawn the smallest crowds in two seasons, and after Saturday’s loss, a group of fans angrily confronted several players before they left the field.

Although the team has tried to circle the wagons and shut out the noise, the tumult was clearly weighing heavily on the players, making Tuesday’s move inevitable.

Whether it’s enough to salvage the season remains to be seen. Despite the horrible start the Galaxy, with nine points out of 14 matches, are just seven points shy of a playoff berth with 20 games to play. That’s a climb history suggests can be made: In 2012, the Galaxy had 11 points through 13 games, yet went on to win the league title.

Less than two months after lifting that MLS Cup, the team made Klein president.

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