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Galaxy Decides to Fire Schmid

Despite first-place standing, L.A.'s Hamilton makes move because he did not like the direction in which the team was headed.

August 17, 2004|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

First place, as dubious as it was, was not enough to save him.

Neither were the three trophies Sigi Schmid won with the Galaxy or the quick start his club got off to this season.

Turns out Doug Hamilton, the Galaxy president and general manager, did not like the direction in which he sensed the Galaxy was headed. On Monday, over lunch and with eight games left in the regular season, he fired Schmid.

"For sure I'm surprised but I'm more disappointed," said Schmid, who in March 2003 signed a multiyear contract that was expected to last through this season. "I think last year was a difficult year but I appreciate the confidence that was shown in me. And I think I delivered on that."

Hamilton was not so sure.

"A lot of things came together that suggested to us that it was time to make a change," said Hamilton, who came to the Galaxy from the Miami Fusion after it folded in 2002. "We're sitting at the top of the table and I'm telling the team that's not good enough.

"This is a painful decision. I regret having to do this."

Style of play counts as much, if not more, than results, Hamilton has long intimated. He wants the Galaxy to attack and pressure its opponents more.

Schmid had been under intense scrutiny since the Galaxy's epic playoff collapse last November, when it blew a four-goal lead against San Jose.

"I will not be pleased if we get positive results that are not entertaining for the fans," Hamilton said at the time. "That would be hard to stomach."

Schmid seemed to quell doubt when the Galaxy scored 32 goals in its first 17 league matches, going 9-5-3.

But mind-numbing play, confusion in the midfield and injuries have reigned lately, as the Galaxy is on a five-match winless streak in which it has scored three goals. And that's not counting the embarrassing, 1-0 loss to the A-League's Minnesota Thunder in the U.S. Open Cup.

Still, the Galaxy retained its first-place standing in the Western Conference at 9-6-7 (34 points) and its 35 goals are the second-most in MLS. But the Galaxy has played at least one more match than every team in the league except one.

Schmid, who replaced Octavio Zambrano on April 22, 1999, had a regular-season league record of 80-53-32 and was 16-7-3 in the playoffs, taking the Galaxy to three MLS Cup finals. Under Schmid, the Galaxy won the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup, the 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2002 MLS Cup.

"A team in a season is like a marriage," Schmid said. "It's not sunshine and laying by the pool all day long. There's rocky days. But a strong marriage will sustain that.

"When you play a 30-game season, you're going to hit peaks and valleys. I never had a doubt we were going to hit a streak. I think the foundation was laid for this team to sustain. That's for someone else to do now."

Schmid eschewed rumors that he had lost control of the team and another that had him joining former Galaxy technical advisor Juergen Klinsmann in Germany.

"This year, to me, is like a painting you never get to complete," Schmid said.

Hamilton said he will not have an interim coach, but if he is unable to make a full-time hire by Saturday, first-year assistant Martin Vasquez will run the Galaxy against Chicago.

An intriguing name is on the Galaxy's radar -- former U.S. and Costa Rica national team coach Steve Sampson, who was fired in June by the Ticos after uninspired World Cup qualifying matches against Cuba.

"Our mission is to compete for and win championships," Hamilton said. "This is the most prestigious job in U.S. club soccer."

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