L.A. Galaxy Will Open 2023 Season Fan-less Amid Supporters’ Protest

Losing seasons, rising profits, short-termism and a cheating scandal have left Galaxy fans hoping for a change in the front office—to no end

When the MLS season kicks off on Saturday, the L.A. Galaxy will face off against local rivals LAFC in the Rose Bowl for the derby known as “El Trafico.” Though the Galaxy have not matched their historic highs in recent years, the five-time MLS Cup winners have enjoyed much success against their neighbors, securing results in 12 of the 16 matchups, and wins in 7 of them. To commemorate the match, the club even commissioned brand-new L.A, Galaxy Rose Bowl jerseys.

Everything points to a great night out for Galaxy fans. And yet, the club’s strongest supporters’ groups won’t be in attendance. Instead, they will be watching at home, and at organized watch parties. Anywhere but at the stadium.

For the past month, the Galaxy’s strongest and biggest supporters’ groups have been boycotting the club, leaving whole sections of Dignity Health Sports Park empty for preseason matches, And they have no plans to return. As long as Galaxy President Chris Klein and Technical Director Jovan Kirovski remain in their jobs, “we will be having home and away watch parties,” says Manny Martinez, president of Galaxy Outlawz (regular seats at Galaxy matches: Victoria Block section 120).

The match against LAFC will be the first test for the boycott, which the Galaxy have stated will have no impact on personnel decisions. Nonetheless, the fan groups are committed to the protest, which they insist is not against the players or coaches.

“Our boycott is against Chris Klein and Jovan for our past decade of mediocrity, cheating, and [lack of] accountability,” says Martinez. The Galaxy have floundered since their last championship in 2014, with many fans having grown frustrated by the team’s recruitment strategies.

Klein has prioritized signing marketable players like Zlatan Ibrahimovich over players with a good on-field fit. Other fan frustrations center on the lack of investment in scouting, sport science and analytics, and roster management. In one case, the Galaxy agreed to transfer Kevin Cabarl, one of their designated players, to Colorado and pay half of his elevated salary—even while he played for another team.

On top of such questionable management decisions, the team was sanctioned by MLS in December for “violating salary budget and roster guidelines,” a punishment which restricted Klein from “from any sporting-related responsibilities through the conclusion of the Primary Transfer Window in 2023,” and barred Dennis te Kloese, the team’s General Manager since the time of the offenses, from working in MLS unless he applies for new permission with the Office of the Commissioner.

Klein and Kirovski are “the only constants with all these bad [moves] in the past decade,” Martinez says.

Meanwhile, as the Galaxy struggled and extended Klein’s contract, LAFC has been one of MLS’ moat-winning teams since they began playing in 2018. This only underscores the fact that the Galaxy used to be the league’s standard bearers.

“We’re no longer the forerunners, no longer the leader,” says Andrew Alesana, president of the L.A. Riot Squad (regular seats at Galaxy matches: sections 117-118). The Galaxy “saved the league in the early 2000s, and now, we’re very reactionary.”

When LAFC came to town in 2014, the fan groups knew that they presented a threat to the Galaxy’s supremacy, and Alesana said as much to Klein. “I told him that you can make this team dead in the water. You can make LAFC [un]successful.” According to Alesana, Klein responded that “the L.A. Galaxy are going to continue doing,” but the team finished last in the league, earning the ignominious Wooden Spoon award.

It is in this context that the fan groups will be meeting at Absolution Brewing on Saturday to watch El Trafico. The room will be full of fans, united by disappointment and solidarity.

“It’ll be hard for us,” says Alesana. “A lot of people that I know will be at the watch party, but it’s gonna be different going to a watch party, rather than being at the stadium. We do this out of love. We want to see our club do well, and we want something to be proud of, [but] the way things are going, we’ve been stuck in the mud.”

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