Kick Off: What's good for TFC is good for MLS, says rival

Kick Off, November 28, 2012: Toronto FC

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Kevin Payne is ready for a new challenge. Is a golden era in Toronto close behind?

When The Washington Post's Steven Goff broke the news on Tuesday that longtime D.C. United president Kevin Payne was leaving the club after nearly two decades, it didn’t take long for reports of his destination to emerge: Toronto FC.

The Toronto media have pounced on the news this morning that TFC have called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon "to introduce [their] new club president."

The Globe and Mail tracked down Bob Lenarduzzi, president of TFC rivals Vancouver Whitecaps. “Toronto’s success is critical for Vancouver, and critical for Montreal, it’s critical for MLS…” Lenarduzzi says. "They’ve obviously decided that they need someone in that position who has the MLS knowledge and the MLS leadership, and in my opinion it’s never too late, and so in order to reignite the passion, this is a great first step in that direction."

Payne met the media Tuesday afternoon and shined some light on the timing of his departure. Here is Goff's take on the potential reasoning, which includes lower attendance at RFK Stadium and the improved outlook for a stadium under new owners Erick Thohir and Jason Levien.

Payne said that the move was “100 percent my doing,” adding that the influence of the new ownership group was a catalyst for the change. "I feel like the new ownership is stable, and I think that they’re ready to move things forward,” Payne said. “Had it been in the recent past, I might not have felt comfortable moving on.”

And although Payne did not confirm the TFC rumors during his teleconference, he asserted that remaining at D.C. was an option, but not one he wanted to take. “I really did come to believe that it made sense for me to try to do something different. I still feel young and I’m excited about a new challenge,” he said. "I have new opportunities I want to explore, new adventures I want to undertake."

D.C. head coach Ben Olsen, meanwhile, discussed the Payne decision on the latest edition of The Capital Soccer Show, insisting that the move won’t change the soccer side of the equation in D.C. “Kevin’s been almost paternal to me since I’ve gotten here,” Olsen said. “He’s always looked out for me.”

So what of Payne’s legacy in D.C.? Steve Davis at NBCSN’s ProSoccerTalk says that “the longtime president of D.C. United has probably been the most influential non-owner since the league’s inception.”

Payne’s decision took the attention, for one day, at least, off of the upcoming MLS Cup. But now it's time to get back to the game.

The big news in Los Angeles surrounds the health of LA Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who told media yesterday that he is nearly fully recovered from a knee injury that has kept him out of the entire postseason.

Now, it appears, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has a huge decision to make whether to start DeLaGarza or rookie Tommy Meyer, who has filled in ably. “We're going to let A.J. get through the week training, see how he holds up,” said Arena, who is giving the team an off-day on Wednesday. “I'm optimistic he'll be able to be part of our team on Saturday.”

The biggest storyline in Galaxy camp, meanwhile, continues to be the drama surrounding outgoing superstar David Beckham and the ambiguous future of Landon Donovan. Brian Straus of the Sporting News examines whether or not all that extra attention will derail the Galaxy’s title hopes, or if perhaps there’s no better team to take it all in stride.

When exactly did the LA Galaxy turn it all around this season? That’s an easy one for midfielder Mike Magee, who pointed to a 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake on June 20 that served as “the first time we came together and really battled for each other."

The Dynamo, meanwhile, are still camped out in Houston. They won’t arrive in Los Angeles until later this week. But when game day finally arrives on Saturday there will be plenty of eyes on Corey Ashe, who will get to slot into his natural left back position after he was thrown into the midfield during last year’s Cup in place of the injured Brad Davis.

“Corey’s developed into one of the best left backs in Major League Soccer,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena says. “He’s physically strong and physically set to deal with any issues in his space and he’s good going forward.”

And Houston’s not-so-secret weapon? Look no further than new Designated Player Boniek García, who said this week that he’s going on YouTube to check out highlights from the MLS Cup last year.

Another Houston newcomer to Cup is Ricardo Clark, who won MLS titles with the club in 2006 and 2007 but didn't play in either championship game. Here’s ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle on the curious fate of Clark, who’s been integral to the team’s success this season.

MLS Cup week means MLS awards season is in full bloom, and two more winners were announced on Tuesday. It came as no surprise that San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop was named Coach of the Year, but one of Yallop's players, center back Jason Hernandez, was surprised and disappointed that one of his teammates was beaten out by Seattle’s Eddie Johnson for Comeback Player of the Year?

And here’s some no-brainer news on Johnson: After leading the team in goals in 2012, the Sounders have decided to pick up his option for 2013.

On to other news in the league, and there could be a coaching change looming soon in Montreal. Here’s Sportsnet’s Nick Sabetti on the man the Impact might hire to replace Jesse Marsch and that unique relationship between the Impact and Italian soccer. “The Impact embarked on their MLS journey with clear ideas,” Sabetti writes. “And now they're on a totally new path, and it's all more risky and vague — perhaps unnecessary and not very realistic — but potentially very rewarding.”

How rewarding would it be to sell Juan Agudelo to a European club? It doesn’t matter to Chivas USA, who insisted again that the talented youngster is not for sale, no matter how well he plays while working out with Scottish side Celtic.

And who wants to see Thierry Henry in an Arsenal kit this winter? Fellow Frenchman and Gunners striker Olivier Giroud does, saying Henry “misses the enthusiasm around the Premier League.”

One player apparently staying put in MLS is San Jose midfielder Simon Dawkins, who appears increasingly likely to return to the Bay next season.

Eric Hassli isn’t going anywhere either. The hulking French striker will be back in Toronto next season after the club picked up his option on Tuesday.

Here’s a blast from the past in Dallas: former FCD defender Pablo Richetti took to Twitter recently to fire a few shots at the club’s celebrated youth program.

Speaking of blasts from the past, the North American Soccer League named its new president, and he has some deep MLS ties. Former AEG senior executive Bill Peterson is now the man in charge of the future of NASL as they usher in expansion teams in New York, Ottawa and Virginia in the near future.

And here are two quick international notes to end on: Sacha Kljestan donned the armband and chipped in an assist for Anderlecht on Tuesday, and former Real Salt Lake striker Yura Movsisyan could be on the move again, this time to Russian side Spartak Moscow.

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