As linked on the SSF this morning, there’s a growing consensus that Kevin Payne and Toronto FC did alright at the MLS SuperMegaAmazingDraft yesterday by swapping their four hundred picks for Garber’s Monopoly Money, and still walking out with Kyle Bekker, a player that Ben Rycroft believes is underrated only because he’s Canadian.
I was struck though by Payne’s remarks though at the draft:
“We really wanted [Emery Welshman],” Payne said. “We thought there was a chance we might lose him. But we were okay with other guys that we wanted. It’s just trying to understand what the probabilities are.” Bekker, the MVP of the MLS Combine, saw his stock rise dramatically, and Payne was thrilled to land the Canadian U-23 international.
“Technically he’s very, very good,” said Payne. “He’s so sound technically, he can play quickly. But tactically, he’s way ahead of anybody else in the draft, and his understanding of what’s going on in the middle of the park.”
Kevin Payne is the Toronto FC president. I’m not an insider MLS guy (no matter what I tell my mom) but it seemed to me yesterday that most of the guys doing the talking in the draft were head coaches. Columbus sent out Robert Warzycha to give some press quote fodder. Ditto with Revs coach Jay Heaps.
I’m thinking Payne may be more GM than president. Most MLS presidents either share the soccer side of the operation with the business side, or tend to front office business operations exclusively and leave the rest to the GM (as in LA with Bruce Arena). Nothing is really fixed. These are, after all, mere corporate titles.
Still, I and others had it on good information ahead of MLSE hiring Payne that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment did not want a guy meddling with the business side of things, and so Kevin Payne seems to have been their Soccer Guy pick. This was, and now is…disappointing. The last thing Toronto FC needed was yet another self-styled football expert coming in and showing everyone how to make football pie. What they needed was to revamp TFC as an organization, one prone to cliques, politicking, and petty subterfuge (and in some cases, particularly with regard to agents, something a little more nefarious). Hiring a suitable soccer person and then demarcating a clear line between the soccer and business side of the operation would have been the next step in establishing a professional club ready to compete in Major League Soccer—not League Two, and not the Eredivisie.
Even more alarming was learning from Aaron Stollar this week that Payne’s critics almost always point to his need to control all aspects of the soccer side of the operation.
What does this mean for Toronto FC? Essentially that TFC may be without a president. Instead, they have a GM and a head coach. Which is fine I guess, but not what the club really needed.