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The bizarre coaching situation unfolding at Toronto FC

Jan 8, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT

Kevin Payne

So, let’s just make sure we have our facts and our timeline straight regarding the bizarre situation that has developed unraveled at Toronto FC.

Because it’s important to be sure we have everything sorted out just so before launching into the proper scolding, chiding, yukking-it-up and the general comeuppance.

(MORE: Much snarkiness flies as the Twitter world piles on)

  • Kevin Payne was recently hired away from D.C. United to turn around the soccer operation at Toronto FC, where long-suffering fans have watched the organization stumble comically in competitive matters since first kick back in 2007. (Seriously, those fans deserve one really great video box set each, or some kick-ass Groupons … something!)
  • Payne, with a spotted history of coaching hires at D.C. United, leaning on a trusting relationship with Ryan Nelsen that goes back more than a decade, talks the highly respected QPR defender into retiring as a player to take over as TFC manager.
  • Payne dismisses Paul Mariner, who held the coaching post.
  • This is where it gets weird.
  • At the press conference today to introduce Nelsen as the new man in charge, the bottom falls out of this one. Completely.
  • We learn that Nelsen will apparently remain in England, holding his spot along Queens Park Rangers back line until further notice.
  • Uh, what!?
  • Meanwhile, Bowdoin College coach (Yes, that Bowdoin College) Fran O’Leary will run the team. And will oversee the team’s selections in the Jan. 17 MLS Draft, apparently.
  • And the MLS player combine down in Florida, where every other coach, GM, technical director, etc. will find themselves next week? Nah. Nelsen will be in London, dealing with the QPR mess rather than begin to sort out the TFC mess.
  • Head scratching on a grand scale ensues.
  • The obvious question for Payne, regarding Nelsen’s status at QPR, is this: “What did Payne know, and when did he know it?” Yes, it’s very Washington scandal-ish, isn’t it? Which is ironic, considering all of Payne’s years in Washington.
  • I find myself feeling a little silly for writing this, applauding TFC’s coaching hire.
  • At this point, I decide that my head hurts, and that I need a sandwich before dealing with this for another second.

Stay tuned for more … Because there certainly will be more to talk about here.

  1. mrtuktoyaktuk - Jan 8, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Let’s say in the alternative universe where TFC isn’t a constant mess, it rolled out this way – Mariner fired; Fran O’Leary hired as interim (eliciting a “who’s that” but that’s about it), rumblings in the background that there is a “Premier League level international” interested in perm job at end of PL season. In May or June, Nelsen shakes hands with Payne in front of the press. I’m not a big wheel team exec, but I have noticed this is how most teams in the world go about this kind of business.

    • Steve Davis - Jan 8, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      You say “I’m not a big wheel team exec…”

      Well, maybe you should be. Because, yes, that’s a far better way to plot out the whole thing.

  2. arbeck - Jan 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Can we just call TFC the QPR of MLS?

    • krazymunky - Jan 8, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      Chivas USA vs TFC for that title

    • mvktr2 - Jan 9, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      TFC, the best argument for pro-rel in MLS! Geez what a mess.

      I don’t care for TFC, could care less for or about them. However given their ‘big’ investment in player development I’ve been rooting for them to chart a path toward successful player development which would pressure rival team and pressure them to follow suit (the biggest need behind TV money in MLS is player development). However at this point I just enjoy watching them chart new territory even when it theater of the absurd!

  3. orbmech - Jan 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I think we may be looking at this from the wrong perspective. Maple Leaf Sports has obviously decided that it’s the fans fault and have been doing everything possible to get rid of them since the first season. They finally had some visible success last season, but this should be just the thing to push those last remaining die-hards out. Then they can bring in the “right” kind of fans. MLS should offer counseling to those last Toronto fans. Or sainthood.

  4. charliej11 - Jan 8, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Even three years ago this team should have had enough money to bring the top coaches in. Their fans have and will give up on them. Crazy.

  5. nygdriveforfive - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    This sounds about right when considering MLSE runs the team.

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