Toronto FC set to hire D.C. United president Kevin Payne
Toronto FC has taken its first big first step in restructuring after another disappointing season.
The Canadian Press has learned that former D.C. United president and CEO Kevin Payne is joining the underachieving club. An announcement is expected Wednesday.
Payne, 59, has been the Washington D.C. club's top executive since its formation in 1996. He has also served as its general manager.
A major restructuring move was expected by Toronto FC, which is looking to revamp after the latest in a series of poor seasons.
On Monday, during his annual state of the league conference call, MLS commissioner Don Garber said the struggling Toronto franchise was planning some "bold moves."
And Tom Anselmi, president and COO of TFC owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, has said a full review of the club and its structure was planned after the franchise's latest dismal season.
Also Tuesday, the club announced that designated player Eric Hassli will return next season after the club picked up the option on his contract for 2013. The 31-year-old French striker was obtained in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 2, but injuries limited him to seven league games. He scored three goals for Toronto over that span.
The club said Hassli, who made $790,000 US this season, will be a designated player again in 2013.
Toronto (5-21-8) missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year since joining the league in 2007.
This season, the club posted franchise worsts for wins (five), losses (21), points (23), goals against (62) and winless string (14).
D.C. United, meanwhile, finished third in the league standings with a 17-10-7 record, despite losing former league MVP Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury. The club finished the regular season with a seven-game unbeaten streak before losing to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference final.
"Kevin's lengthy list of accomplishments speaks to his strong acumen as a leader," D.C, United co-owner Jason Levien said in a statement Tuesday announcing Payne's departure.
"His dedication to the organization deserves deep admiration and appreciation. As D.C. United begins a new chapter, Kevin's leadership has helped to prepare us for this important and potential-filled inflection point in the club's history."
Levien and Erick Thohir, an Indonesian media magnate and part-owner in the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, were introduced in July as the newest members of D.C. United's ownership group.
D.C. United won four MLS Cups under Payne (1996, '97, '99 and 2004) and the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup. The team lost in the 1994 final.
"They say the only constant in life is change," Payne said in the D.C. United statement. "For me, D.C. United has been like my child. We brought the team into the D.C. and national sports world 17 years ago and every day since — good and bad — has been a labour of love ... I'm very excited about the next phase of my life, and very excited about the next phase for D.C. United, as well.
"I know the leadership of the team will take it to new heights on, and off, the field. I look forward to returning to RFK and wish everyone in the D.C. United family the best of luck."