Galaxy’s strong start is not just Chicharito, but Greg Vanney as well
CARSON, California – “New Era, Same Culture.”
That was the message Los Angeles Galaxy fans revealed in the stands ahead of the 3-2 home win over the New York Red Bulls. Four words that spoke to a new slate and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez brought that feeling to life with his first Major League Soccer hat trick on Sunday.
He was greeted with standing ovations when he was deposed by the 6,853 fans who had attended for the first time in over 13 months. His five goals in two games have already more than doubled his performance throughout the 2020 season, but stop making him think.
“It’s a thing of the past, we won’t change that,” said Hernandez.
This year’s attention will be centered around Chicharito, which is what to expect. But the Galaxy are the only team in MLS to have won the first two games of this season, and those early results are the by-product of something deeper than a player.
When Greg Vanney was announced as the new head coach in January, Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese and President Chris Klein couldn’t help but rave about the hiring. Vanney, a former Galaxy player, won three trophies with the club, making it seventh in franchise history.
Put simply, he knows what the galaxy is about.
And from his first day at the helm, he has preached about teaching a culture. In the last few years this was borderline impossible because there was no culture; there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It was all about him, and at least one high profile player said it caused friction in the dressing room. Much has been overlooked because Zlatan was a walking headline, but it’s no secret how this messed up the dynamics of an organization used to winning titles. The galaxy hasn’t done that in a while.
It’s early, but Vanney is already getting results with an incomplete roster. What is the reason?
“The culture change, the new coach and a little bit of everything,” said midfielder Jonathan dos Santos. “I can tell you personally that I feel this atmosphere for the first time in the locker room. We feel like family, brothers. I feel like I know my teammates a lot better. “
Seasoned midfielder Sacha Kljestan expressed similar feelings.
“The feeling in the group at the moment, how we are with each other, how we enjoy being with each other, the camaraderie, the brotherhood – all of this was at a high level and was really fun,” said Kljestan.
Whether it’s just joking or playing music while exercising, players say they’re looser because Vanney understands how important it is for the players to be themselves.
And it’s not just about what the coaching team says.
“We ask our guys to think, solve problems, and do lots of things on the field that require their minds to be clear,” explained Vanney. “The last thing you want them to do is to be tense, nervous, anxious, anything but relaxed, and to feel like themselves.
“I think it’s an environment that I would have liked to be in as a player. We’re trying to create that for these guys and help them understand why. I’m glad they appreciate it. I think some of these results is that they fight for the culture they have now and show their respect for it and for the fans. “
In his last job at Toronto FC, Vanney was named MLS and CONCACAF Coach of the Year in 2017 after the Reds became the first MLS team to win a domestic triple: the MLS Cup the Supporters’ Shield and the Canadian Championship. Playoff and cup finals became the norm under Vanney.
“(He’s) fantastic,” said Chicharito. “That’s why he did what he did in Toronto and now he’s trying to do it here. The coaching team was so good.”
Beat Miami and New York by two 3-2 points is impressive, but the schedule will be improved over the next two weeks with a trip to Seattle and the first El Trafico of the season against LAFC.
Regardless, fans and players are again using the phrase the club used when signing Chicharito – Imaginémonos cosas chingonas, which means “let’s imagine cool things.”
“This year will be completely different from anyone else I’ve been here,” said dos Santos.
Unlike previous seasons, the goal is and back to what made the Galaxy the most successful franchise in MLS history.
New era, same culture.
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