Fired Lalas finally speaks out on Galaxy

November 07, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Jones is a Times staff writer.

Alexi Lalas, surfacing in public for the first time since being fired in August as the Galaxy's president and general manager, took a few shots of his own on Thursday night.

Appearing as an ESPN co-host during coverage of the Chicago Fire's 3-0 playoff victory over the New England Revolution, Lalas said David Beckham's connections had shown "disrespect" to the Galaxy by not letting the club know in advance of their talks with AC Milan.

He also said the Galaxy's main shortcoming in 2008 was a lack of leadership on the field, and questioned whether the rest of the world would share Major League Soccer's opinion of Landon Donovan's worth.

His firing was the first topic.

"I'm a little hesitant to talk about it because I don't want it to appear self-serving or bitter," Lalas told co-host Rob Stone.

"I believe in accountability and I believe in responsibility, and as the president and GM, regardless of what the circumstances were, I'm responsible for it. I paid the ultimate price and I accept that."

Lalas said his replacement, Bruce Arena, "is good, he's got a plan, he's organized, and I think that he will be good for the organization.

"I think his first order of business is to find some leadership, to fill a void that exists. He needs to go out and find . . . some guys that don't care about saying the truth, don't care about hurting people's feelings, and aren't afraid that they're going to lose their job for doing so.

"I think that he needs to make one of those guys captain. . . . You need to send a message that nobody is bigger than the club, whether you're David Beckham or whether you're Tristan Bowen, an 18-year-old coming into the club. Everybody has to understand that it's the team first.

"If I regret anything, it's that I recognized that early on and I probably didn't do enough in order to correct that situation."

Lalas said Arena would have "his work cut out for him" in dealing with Beckham.

"When you talk about David Beckham, it's about so much more than what he is on the field, for better or worse," Lalas said. "He's a great player. I think he helps whatever team he's playing for, whether it's the Galaxy or AC Milan.

"The reality is, he's going to do whatever it takes to play with the [England] national team. That's fine. I was a little disappointed with the way that it all came down with him and his folks. I mean, hello, a courtesy telephone call, a little bit of respect to call the coach so that [Arena] knows what's going on, knows that you're being shopped around. But sometimes the tail wags the dog."

Donovan, the league's top goal scorer, has said that he wants to play in Europe next year.

"If Landon wants to go, he should go," Lalas said. "He's a great player. A lot of people would love to see him. And guess what? The Galaxy can survive without Landon Donovan. He's a wonderful player. He will be a difficult player to replace if he goes.

"I think the bigger question is: What does Landon Donovan cost on the open market? Because what MLS thinks he costs and what the rest of the world thinks he costs might be two different things.

"So just because he wants to go doesn't mean he will be allowed to go."


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