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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tuck the Payne away

"This ball still believes in me..."

We barely had time to "get used to" you Kevin.

Through the powerfully heartfelt mediums of corporate press release and hobbled together conference call, Toronto FC kept the gears greased on their never-ending management carousel. Kevin Payne, the ever-so humble, Forlan-addicted veteran MLS executive has "parted ways" with Toronto FC and is no longer the President and GM of the wildly successful club.

While Toronto FC have stumbled and bumbled through yet another season of misery, many did expect a tough year ahead this past off-season. Few, even the most pessimistic of TFC supporters (hello.) would have predicted that Payne's reign would be over mere months after its much ballyhooed beginning. However, with an ambitious new MLSE President in the form of Tim Leiweke and the obvious realization that TFC has not been transformed into a club ready to compete in 2014, the trigger was pulled.

Few will likely know the true catalyst that lead to Payne's dismissal but the writing had been on the wall since Leiweke and head coach Ryan Nelsen appeared in tandem at a semi-secret society meeting with one supporter's group recently. Leiweke went out of his way to assure Nelsen's job security for 2014 but the absence of the team president spoke volumes.

Payne's tenure at TFC is an odd one. While much was done to clear-up some very albatrossy salary cap issues, the remainder of his reign has been littered by big talk, little action all wrapped up in a seemingly excessively arrogant wee package. Little of that is a recipe for success but a few questions will remain unanswered for now:

- Did Kevin Payne really "understand" the Toronto market? D.C. United is a big club but has nowhere near the media coverage and general pressure of Toronto. His often prickly reactions to both media and public put him in increasingly bad light and with a growing visage of a man out of touch with this club's needs.
- Was "Get Used To It" -gate the straw that broke the camel's back with supporters? Most were willing to be patient with his regime but did his flippant treatment of the "vocal minority" opposed to useless friendlies mark his cards with fans? Friendlies aren't going anywhere under MLSE but long-suffering fans didn't need to be publically kicked in the undercarriage.
- If Payne had the ability to keep his mouth shut, would the summer transfer window have been still deemed as dismal as it is currently perceived? If he wouldn't have spent the summer Forlan-teasing fans, then perhaps the lack of a big name wouldn't have felt like such a rip-off.
- Outside of a "difference of opinion on direction", what caused the rift between Payne and his hire Ryan Nelsen. Was it simply personnel decisions or deeper?
- What of the acquisitions that Payne did make - most notably Alvaro Rey, Jonas Elmer and even Maxi Urruti? Are these three now lame ducks or does Ryan Nelsen share the belief in their value?

Other nuggets from Leiweke's conference call included:
- Earl Cochrane has finally been let go by TFC
- Pat Onstad is still with the club
- Italian DP's are fun and he wants some
- Reading between lines, the Argos to BMO and a shocking return to Field Turf are definitely in play (Our man @ignirtoq will have more to say on this later)

So, all in all - just another day in paradise as a club that could have been great slowly death throes itself into becoming New England Revolution 2.0. Without the Championship matches.

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