TORRANCE -- Tim Leiweke has a message for those counting the Galaxy out following a nightmare start to their season: Do so at your own peril.
His other message: Blame's on him.
Back-to-back losses to Real Salt Lake in their Major League Soccer opener and in the decisive leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Toronto FC have the reigning MLS champions reeling, but Leiweke, the president and CEO of owner Anschutz Entertainment Group, says all is well.
“This team is always going to be competitive,” Leiweke said following a news conference announcing a 10-year, $44 million extension of the club's sponsorship agreement with nutritional supplement company Herbalife. “And if people think the demise of the Galaxy is upon them, they sorely misunderstand the character and passion of this organization.”
The Galaxy collapsed after taking a late lead against RSL in a 3-1 loss last Saturday night, then dominated play but struggled in the boxes in a 2-1 defeat Wednesday night, a huge upset that sent Toronto to the regional club championship's semifinals.
Leiweke, like head coach Bruce Arena before him, took responsibility for the failure, citing loan deals that deprived L.A. of stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane until a few days before the first leg against Toronto and an “unfair” schedule that forced the Galaxy to play three important matches in eight days while Toronto and fellow Champions League quarterfinalist Seattle Sounders received byes when league play began last weekend.
“It's been a couple of tough weeks, but that's my fault,” Leiweke said. “We lent players out, we have guys overseas, we probably should have fought back over the schedule. The schedule was brutal, unfair, and we're the only team that had it. So as governor of the team, I take full responsibility.
“The league, I think, didn't treat this team fairly, and I'm no happy with the league, and they should accept responsibility. But we're not whining about it. It is what it is [and] we congratulate Toronto -- they did a great job.”
Leiweke said the Galaxy also should have objected most stringently to the conditions in Toronto, where the game was played on artificial turf in the domed Rogers Centre, “and we should have fought back on the fact that we were probably asking too much out of players that just came back. So that's my fault, and I'll take 100 percent of the blame.
“But that said, I think it was a good lesson for this team. I think it will build character, and anyone that underestimates this team is a fool. We are more determined and more focused now, and we're all ticked off, and that's a good thing. Those that want to say that we're over and we're underachieving, we'll see you [in the MLS playoffs] in November.”
Leiweke continually praised Toronto FC in a 13-minute conversation with reporters, and he said the Reds and Real Salt Lake “were perfect. They came in and played a very smart game. They knew our weaknesses, and they knew what we were dealing with.”
“I wish I would have given Bruce and our team three weeks to prepare for those two games [against Toronto], and that's my fault, and the blame lies with me solely,” he said. “If I would have had three weeks and I would have been able to go to Bruce and say only focus on this, life would have been different. If we would have had all our players in, life would have been different.
“We made a mistake, and we won't make that same mistake again. Next time people try to make us play four games [including Sunday's against D.C. United at Home Depot Center] in less than two weeks, we're going to fight back.”