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LA Galaxy Fans Ask: “Et Tu, Alexi Lalas?”

I am not an executive with a soccer club. Heck, I have no management experience at all. Yet, sometimes I have to think I could do a better job than some of the people managing teams in the MLS. Exhibit A? Alexi Lalas.

Seriously, Galaxy fans have to be wondering what Lalas is thinking these days. On Friday, Lalas traded midfielder Quavas Kirk to DC United in exchange for defender Greg Vanney.

Now, Vanney has had a fine career and was once a force to be reckoned with in the back. However, the man is thirty-three years old and at times last year looked tired on the pitch. Devon McTavish, largely unknown at the beginning of last season, even appeared to challenge Vanney for playing time towards the end of last season. I am not saying McTavish is bad, but four years ago Vanney wouldn’t have ceded a second of playing time to the youngster.

Kirk, meanwhile, is a mere nineteen years of age, despite having already played in the MLS for three seasons. Though he has thus far failed to live up to his potential, largely due to injuries, Kirk was dominant for the US U-17 team and was expected to play a large role in the recent U-20 World Cup. Unfortunately, Kirk missed the tournament due to injury. Though he has yet to make a difference for the Galaxy, he also needs two more years before he can get a beer at a bar.

Oh, and did I mention that DCU actually had no inkling of even keeping Vanney anyways? Because of some foolish free agency (or lack thereof) rules, United had already decided to dump Vanney. So, in the end, the Galaxy gave up a lightning-fast teenage prospect in order to get a player United was getting rid of soon anyways. Make sense to you? Nope, didn’t think so.

Now, one could argue Lalas went with experience over potential. He would probably argue that and that’s true. It’s a good point. But it ignores the larger implications of this trade. “Big Picture-Wise”, you could see this trade as I do: another desperate move by a GM desperate to win right away.

As you can tell, I don’t think the Galaxy came out the winner here. While DC gets one of the U.S.’s best young midfielders (22 goals in 53 games for U-17 squad) nearly at the beginning of his career, LA gets a one-time all-star at the tail end of his playing days. There is only one conclusion an observer can draw from such a move: Lalas appears to be going “all-in” in 2008. He is betting it all that he can produce a winner for Beckham right away, but in the process he seems to be sacrificing the squad’s long-term competitiveness.

The funny thing is, the one place the Galaxy really appear to need more experience is in their front office. Vanney, though a solid player still, is not the kind of player who is going to take a squad as poor as last year’s Galaxy and make them contenders. Meanwhile, though Kirk had failed to produce so far, if he could remain healthy he is the type of player who could have helped this squad contend for the next decade.

Lalas can’t wait that long though as he will likely be ousted if he can’t produce a winning squad this season. Once again, it appears an MLS GM has put his own short term interests above those of the team’s long-term goals. Twelve years from now, Vanney will have been out of soccer for a decade. Quavas Kirk, meanwhile, may still be starting in an MLS all-star game. Only time will tell.

Unfortunatley for Galaxy fans, time is the one thing Lalas doesn’t have..