MIAMI – As a player, Chris Klein set the MLS records for consecutive games started (118) and played (141). But a quick escalation, rather than longevity, has defined his post-playing career.
Klein, now 37, retired in 2010. In 2011 he was the senior director of the LA Galaxy Academy. By February 2012 he become a vice president of the club. Within a year, he dropped the 'vice' from his title, taking over as president of the two-time MLS Cup champion.
When the right-sided defender/midfielder retired, club presidency wasn't necessarily his career plan. But it might have been former Anschutz Entertainment Group president Tim Leiweke's vision for Klein.
"I don't know that that was the goal, but in speaking with Tim Leiweke, the former CEO, there was a definitive plan for me and how that was going to go," Klein told Goal.com in Miami, where he was representing the team for the recently announced Guinness International Champions Cup, which will take place this summer.
"I always wanted to get into the business side of the game and felt that I had the aptitude to do so. I'm thankful to be leading the best club in the country and the vision of where we want to go and who we want to be."
During a 12-year career in MLS that included stints with the Kansas City Wizards, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy, Klein used to help out teammates with taxes and served as a representative on the MLS Players Union. He has a business-marketing degree from Indiana University.
Two months into Klein's presidency, Leiweke's ended.
AEG, which had been for sale since September 2012, came off the market in March, with owner Phil Anschutz vowing to take a larger role in the company. Leiweke, president and CEO since 1996, left.
"No matter what you know, I think everyone was surprised," Klein said. "It all happened so quickly. What Tim did for our company and our team, we'll always remember. I certainly learned a lot from him."
Klein says he shares a long-standing relationship with Dan Beckerman, who replaced Leiweke. Anschutz, who at one point owned seven MLS clubs, "re-communicate his commitment, not only to us but to the sport of soccer."
"There's been no bigger supporter of soccer in this country than him," Klein said. All of which, "makes the transition that much easier."
Leiweke's departure hasn't altered the responsibilities or nature of Klein's job, though he has noticed slight alterations. For instance, Leiweke, a garrulous personality, frequently drummed up press with his star-studded plans. Leiweke first convinced MLS to enact the Designated Player mechanism and lured David Beckham stateside.
"When you have a personality like Tim [leave] it gives everyone more responsibility to lead the charge, to be the person that's out front talking about the Galaxy," Klein said.
From solid, role-playing professional player to the man charged with leading a franchise. A lot's changed.
Does he still help players out with taxes? Klein chuckled and shook his head.
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