LOS ANGELES -- Alexi Lalas, one of the most colorful personalities in American soccer, has rejoined the Los Angeles Galaxy as president and general manager.
The 35-year-old Lalas replaces the late Doug Hamilton, who died of a heart attack March 9. Lalas left a similar position with the New York Red Bulls.
"I'm filling some incredibly big shoes of a gentleman who was not only a friend, but a legend in terms of this job,'' Lalas said Monday on a conference call.
"Doug Hamilton on and off the field was everything that I hope to be, and everything I hope to achieve."
The free-spirited Lalas, whose long red hair, goatee and guitar-strumming made him one of the most recognizable athletes in America, played three of his seven MLS seasons for the Galaxy.
A scrappy defender, he led Los Angeles to the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000, the U.S. Open Cup in 2001, and the MLS Cup in 2002.
Lalas also played 96 games for the national team, and clashed with U.S. coach Steve Sampson when Sampson didn't play him during the 1998 World Cup in France. The Americans lost three first-round games and finished last in the 32-team field.
Sampson now is the Galaxy coach, but Lalas said they have long since put differences behind them.
"I like to think that I'm a better person now, have grown up, have learned a tremendous amount over the past eight years," said Lalas, who has given up the goatee, has his hair trimmed and sometimes even wears a suit.
"Things I've looked back on in my career that I would have done differently, 1998 was one of them. That has long been put to bed."
Lalas said he has followed Sampson's career and was excited for him when the Galaxy won the MLS Cup last season.
"He has my full support, and I'm excited to work with him," Lalas said. "We've chuckled about the history that exists between us. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but the fact is, we're looking toward the future."
Anschutz Entertainment Group Sports president Shawn Hunter said, "When we told Steve we were moving in this direction, he was very excited. He really likes and respects Alexi and the work ethic he will instill from the top down."
AEG owns the Galaxy and owned the MetroStars until last month, when they were bought by Red Bull Co. Ltd. and renamed. AEG also owns D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo, formerly the San Jose Earthquakes.
Lalas also has a history with Bob Bradley, coach of the Galaxy's co-tenant, Chivas USA. Lalas fired Bradley as MetroStars coach in October.
"We're not going to have a fight in the parking lot," Lalas said with a chuckle. "I have a lot of respect for Bob. Any problem we had in the past was based on expectations and what I thought needed to be done.
"Ultimately, you move on and don't dwell on the past. If you do, it will eat you up."
Lalas retired as a player in 2003, then became president and general manager of the Earthquakes before moving to the MetroStars last June.
He said he wishes the Red Bulls and the new ownership the best, and "They're committed to pushing the envelope, and that's exciting."
Red Bulls assistant GM Chris Canetti said he will run the team's operations until further notice, and that "The owners are working on plans involving the restructuring of the entire organization and we expect to have some definitive answer over the next seven days."
Red Bulls coach Mo Johnston said: "If there's a coaching change, then I'll go through the door and move on. There's nothing you can do about it. Uncertainty is not a good thing. If there's going to be a change, then don't wait. Do it now."
Hamilton, who was 43, died on a flight back from the team's CONCACAF Champions Cup game in Costa Rica.
"I miss Doug just like everybody else does," Lalas said. "If I can do my job half as well as he did, the Galaxy will be fine."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press