January 19th, 2021

Former Toronto FC boss Greg Vanney shares his vision for the Los Angeles Galaxy

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on January 6, 2021.

LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney poses for a photo in Carson, Calif., on Monday, January 4, 2021. Vanney makes his first appearance as head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday at a virtual news conference. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - LA Galaxy, Robert Mora

Returning to the club where he started his playing career, Greg Vanney recalled the challenges of the early days of the Los Angeles Galaxy during his introduction as head coach Wednesday.

“We trained at the parking lot outside the Rose Bowl where the grass is,” he told a virtual news conference. “There was glass and we would walk around as a team and pick up the glass and put in the garbage. There were manhole covers on the field.

“Somehow we managed to get in three championship (games) playing in circumstances like that.”

Twenty-four years later, Vanney had to show the same kind of adaptability as coach of Toronto FC, which was forced to make East Hartford, Conn., its home base for most of the 2020 MLS season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

For Vanney, it’s all about “not looking for problems but finding solutions.”

He will be doing it on familiar ground in L.A..

“It’s a club that I have laid my heart and soul on the field for, as a player,” he said of the Galaxy. “And now I’m looking forward to doing so as the manager and coach.”

Vanney talked up the Galaxy culture and tradition – the team has won a league-leading five MLS titles but the last came in 2014 and the club has missed the payoffs three of the last four seasons.

But a storied past is no guarantee for success.

“Our legacy means nothing to our future if we don’t show up and work every single day and try to build off,” cautioned the new coach. “We can’t just talk about the five championships that we won. it’s about what we do today to prepare for the game on the weekend, to try to get a result and then build off a season and so forth.”

The Galaxy fired Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Oct. 29. Dominic Kinnear, a former head coach with San Jose and Houston, finished out the season as interim coach

“We’re very confident moving forward for how we can build back so the Galaxy can be where we belong,” said team president Chris Klein. “So an exciting day for us but we know this is just Step 1 in a process and the hard work has to continue.”

Vanney said his Galaxy will want to play with the ball, offering an attacking brand of soccer while also defending as a team.

The 46-year-old preached humility, character, discipline, hard work and sharing a vision. Toronto fans have heard it before – and shared in the rewards during Vanney’s work in his six seasons at the TFC helm.

Vanney stepped down as Toronto head coach and technical director on Dec. 1, saying he wanted a new challenge.

“I’m a builder. I like to build things and I like projects and I like big things,” he said at the time. “And this club is in a really, really good place. There’s not a lot of building to do. It is an incredible club that is positioned, from where we started to where we are, to be great.”

He is getting his wish in Los Angeles.

Vanney inherits a team that finished 20th out of 26 teams last season at 6-12-4, some 22 points behind second-place Toronto (13-5-5). The Galaxy ranked 18th in scoring (at 1.27 goals a game) and 25th in goals allowed (2.09).

The team is still in talks with Boca Juniors about the future of Argentine forward Cristian Pavon, whose loan has expired. It also needs a No. 1 goalkeeper and to find a way to inspire Mexican star striker Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez.

Vanney called Hernandez “a world-class goal-scorer,” but said the club needs a “clear way” of attacking to help him do what he does best.

It has been turbulent times for the Galaxy of late. According to the Los Angeles Times, the team has gone through 66 players, three GMs and four coaches since Bruce Arena left as coach and GM in 2016.

Of course, Vanney is no stranger to turnarounds, having helped elevate Toronto from league doormat to perennial contender.

Vanney is returning home, having played 193 games in L.A. colours. After being drafted 17th overall in the 1996 MLS college draft, he spent six seasons with the Galaxy before heading to France to join Bastia.

He returned to MLS in 2005, playing for FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United before rejoining L.A. for one final season in 2008.

Vanney has unfinished business with the Galaxy. While he won a Supporters’ Shield (1998), CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (2000) and U.S. Open Cup (2001) with L.A., he was on the losing end three times in the MLS Cup final.

After stepping down in Toronto, Vanney said he took some time to reflect and talk to his family.

“I didn’t know if they would have any interest in me,” he said of the Galaxy. “The question for me was more around was this the right time “¦ to take on a new job for me personally.”

But he acknowledged he’s not very good at sitting still.

“I am a obsessive worker and I’m an obsessive dreamer and vision-type of person,” said the father of four.

The former U.S. international defender spoke warmly about his time in Toronto.

“I made a lot of friends there and a lot of people that I have a lot of respect for,” he said.

Under Vanney, Toronto won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2017 and the Canadian Championship in 2016, ’17 and ’18. The team also reached the MLS Cup final in 2017 and 2019 and the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2018.

TFC made the playoffs in five of his six years at the helm. Vanney won coach of the year honours from both the MLS and CONCACAF in 2017.

Vanney was appointed Toronto’s assistant GM and academy director in 2013 before being elevated to head coach and technical director in August 2014. He had previously served as Real Salt Lake’s youth academy director (2008-11) and as an assistant coach with Chivas USA (2011-12).

Vanney did not offer any details on his coaching staff, although the Los Angeles Times reported that Dan Calichman and Jim Liston, parts of his staff in Toronto, will be joining him in L.A.

He spoke highly of Kinnear, while saying he had yet to sit down with him.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021

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