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Wileman: TFC, Impact, Beckham all make news at MLS Cup

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Luke Wileman
12/4/2012 4:24:59 PM
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Kevin Payne's hiring as Toronto FC President, Montreal Impact's search for a new head coach and David Beckham's departure from Major League Soccer were all talking points during my trip to Los Angeles for MLS Cup last weekend.

Whether it's the Cup Final, All-Star game or SuperDraft, whenever league executives get together in the same place there is always plenty to discuss.

With a Canadian angle, here are some of the highlights from the league's showpiece event:


A Major Coup

Kevin Payne's appointment as Toronto FC's new President and GM was a big talking point amongst the MLS crowd in LA. Everyone who has been associated with the league in recent years has a view on Payne. He's well respected and has a reputation of getting the job done, although it's clear to see he has very strong opinions about how things should be done and isn't shy to make his feelings known.

In a conversation with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Garber described the hiring of Payne as "a major coup" for Toronto FC. "Tom Anselmi (President and COO of MLSE) has basically said 'I've got to fix this' and he went out and hired arguably the most experienced person in Major League Soccer to do that. Kevin is focused and he is going to try and turn things around," Garber told me.

Along with my broadcast partner Jason deVos, we had the opportunity to sit down with Payne for a good discussion on Friday to get to know a bit about him and his philosophies. It's a massive job ahead of the former DC man but Payne's main immediate focus will be to help fix the first team.

For Payne, it's about finding ways to get good value out of players in a salary cap world, and that is something he's extremely experienced in doing. I get the impression he won't be afraid to make his mark on the team and will do whatever it takes to improve the club. He might not always be popular, but he will try to build the club with a long-term strategic view, and that's certainly something that has been missing in the past.


The Search Goes On

Montreal Impact President Joey Saputo says the search is continuing for the club's new head coach. He says there's been plenty of interest in the position and the Impact are still working their way through the list. Saputo denied reports from Montreal that suggested he had offered the job to former Impact defender Enzo Concina who is now an assistant coach with Napoli in Italy, but he did admit they are looking for someone with European experience.

The one thing that really struck me about Saputo's wish-list when it comes to hiring a new coach is the importance of having someone who wants to be an educator. He wants whoever comes in to be comfortable playing a key role in developing the club's current players and coaches.


Life After Beckham

Should MLS be worried about a future without David Beckham? One league insider who was present in the Board of Governors meetings on Friday told me there wasn't anyone in the room who voiced any concern that the league won't continue to grow in the post-Beckham era.

It's clear the feeling amongst the league's officials is that although Beckham's contribution has been great, the league is now in a position where it will have no problem moving forward without him. The fact that Kaka is being targeted as a possible replacement by LA shows the Galaxy are serious about replacing Beckham's star power, although indications are that Beckham will be back in MLS sooner rather than later – maybe within the next 12 months - as part of an ownership group.


Mallett on Whitecaps

On Saturday morning we had the chance to catch up with Vancouver Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallet for an interview you can hear on this week's TSN FC podcast, available this Thursday. Amongst the topics we discussed were his thoughts on Martin Rennie's first season as coach, how the Whitecaps view the development of Canadian players, why they didn't commit to the new Women's Professional League, and what the club's goals are both on and off the pitch for 2013. Make sure you look out for the interview to hear all of his answers on the podcast later this week.

David Beckham Robbie Keane (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
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