LOS ANGELES (AP) — LA Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid stepped down Monday with just six games remaining in the Major League Soccer season, abruptly ending his second tenure in charge of the winningest franchise in league history.
Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history, walked away just 42 regular-season games into his second stint with his hometown club.
Galaxy President Chris Klein said Schmid’s departure was a joint decision after extensive recent discussions about the direction of a once-dominant franchise enduring its second straight miserable season. The Galaxy (10-10-8) are mired in eighth place in the Western Conference standings despite a high-priced roster headlined by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“It was a conversation that we had,” Klein said. “I don’t know if it’s that he simply just stepped away. I’d rather not get into specifics, but it was a conversation that Sigi had with us, and collectively we decided this was best for him and us right now.”
Dominic Kinnear will be the Galaxy’s interim head coach for the rest of the year. Kinnear, an assistant to Schmid this season, is the third-winningest head coach in MLS history, leading two championship teams with the Houston Dynamo.
The Galaxy are struggling despite a wealth of talent including Ibrahimovic, Giovani Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini. They are winless in their last six games, yielding 18 goals and slipping out of playoff position.
And though they went unbeaten in three meetings with expansion Los Angeles FC, the Galaxy also are eight points behind their upstart local rivals in the West standings.
“We’re not satisfied or happy with where the team is at right now,” Klein said. “Our expectations are much higher than that. We know that responsibility extends beyond just Sigi. Having said that, we still do have a fighter’s chance, and we’re going to see if we can get back in the race.”
Klein confirmed Ibrahimovic had nothing to do with the coaching change. Ibrahimovic has excelled under Schmid, scoring a whopping 16 goals in 21 games.
“Zlatan, since he has come here, I understand his reputation and his personality, but he has been beyond professional,” Klein said. “He would never go there, even if he wanted to.”
Kinnear is the Galaxy’s third coach in 22 months since the departure of Bruce Arena, who left to take over the U.S. national team in its failed bid to reach the World Cup. Arena had been the Galaxy’s head coach and general manager for eight years, winning three MLS Cup championships.
Klein didn’t deny Arena and Kinnear both could be candidates for the full-time job, but the team president also plans to look beyond the usual suspects for the next architect of the Galaxy’s future after two tremendously frustrating seasons.
“A change at this point in the season is never ideal,” Klein said. “That is a concern, but Dominic knows this team well, knows the group and what’s needed. We still feel that we have some games left where we can make some noise.”
The Galaxy’s next game is at Toronto FC on Saturday.
The 65-year-old Schmid steps away from the Galaxy with 266 wins in the regular season and the postseason combined.
He won MLS Cup titles with the Galaxy in 2002 and the Columbus Crew in 2008. Schmid also was the first MLS coach of the Seattle Sounders, leading the popular club from 2009-16.
A year after Seattle fired him, Schmid returned to the Galaxy when Curt Onalfo was fired last summer. Schmid wasn’t able to spark a strong finish for the Galaxy, who finished last in the MLS standings to close the worst season in franchise history.
The Galaxy have shown flashes of excellence this season, but have also struggled for long stretches despite the dramatic addition of Ibrahimovic in March.
“After careful consideration, I have decided to step away from coaching at this time, but would like to remain in the game,” Schmid said in a statement released by the team. “With six games remaining as the club fights for a playoff spot, I understand the timing of this decision is unfortunate. However, I believe this group can come together and fight for a spot this season under Dom’s guidance.”
Schmid was born in Germany and raised in the Los Angeles area. He spent 19 years coaching at UCLA, his alma mater, before joining the Galaxy in 1999.
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