TORONTO – Kevin Payne said he likes to build.
In that regard, he has moved to the right place as president and general manager of Toronto FC, who have yet to make the league playoffs in their six years as an MLS franchise and were 5-21-8 in 2012.
“I personally love a challenge,” the former president and CEO of D.C. United said at BMO Field on Wednesday at his introductory media conference. “I often talk with people and say what’s the fun of being manager of Real Madrid and spending crazy money and just buying the best players. I really love to build things. I think that there are pieces in place here.”
The 59-year-old, who spent 17 years with D.C. United during which the club won 12 domestic and international championships including four MLS Cups, will head both the team and business operations for TFC.
Payne is the first president the club has ever had. The search began after Aron Winter was fired as head coach technical director on June 7.
“We had an obvious leadership void at the club,” said Tom Anselmi, president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns TFC. “We had made the decision at that point that we needed new overall leadership, a president, disconnect that job from the head coaching job, leadership with experience, a track record of success – specifically MLS experience – in building a winning club and we found the right guy.”
Payne said that Paul Mariner will remain as head coach, a position he took over from Winter when the team was 1-9-0.
“He is a person I have a lot of respect for, competed against for a number of years in the East when he was a key member of the success in New England,” he said.
Payne is familiar with some of the members of the organization. Director of team and player operations Earl Cochrane worked for D.C. United as director of communications for two years, and TFC Academy Director Thomas Rongen coached D.C. from 1999 to 2001, winning an MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield double in the process.
Payne said that decisions will be a collaborative effort, but Cochrane will be the team’s contact person in trades and player acquisitions.
“As far as trades and so forth, Earl is going to be the primary point person for anything of that sort coming into or out of Toronto FC,” Payne said. “There needs to be one person that everybody knows is the one to talk to. Otherwise you get massive confusion.”
The organization has the ingredients for success he feels with the new training center and the support staff available to the team.
“That is unmatched in Major League Soccer and those are very important foundational elements of success,” he said. “We never had that kind of resource at our disposal in D.C.
“That was very attractive to me. I think there are some very good pieces within this group. I’m a big believer that you have to find ways to improve the players that you have. Obviously you have to make smart decisions on the personnel side. And some of those are people to move on and some of those are people to bring in.”
How strong does Payne feel about the potential in Toronto?
“This is the only job in Major League Soccer for which I would have left D.C.,” he said.