Toronto FC is making progress on its hunt for a new general manager, according to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke.
“This won’t be a long search. We’re already down to two (candidates),” Leiweke told season ticket-holders at the MLS team’s annual barbecue Sunday.
“I’ve been focused on this the last two weeks.”
The struggling 5-13-10 club fired president and GM Kevin Payne on Thursday, with Leiweke saying the two were not on the same page.
Reports have linked Real Salt Lake’s Garth Lagerwey to the Toronto job although Real Salt Lake has noted he is under contract to the club through 2014 — a fact that might not mean a move is out of the question.
Leiweke also told his audience at the team’s training centre Sunday that the MLSE board had authorized $26-million to spend on two major player acquisitions in the transfer window that just closed.
The team was unable to close those deals, a failure that was seemingly part of the reason behind Payne’s departure and Leiweke hitching his wagon to rookie manager Ryan Nelsen.
“I also believe that the coach and the front office have to have the same view of the kind of DP (designated player) and the position you’re trying to fill,” Leiweke said. “One thing Nellie (Nelsen) and I agree on is we need strikers.
“If you watched the game last night (a 4-0 loss in Portland on Saturday), we need finishers and we need strikers. It is so clear what we need here. We’re not chasing defenders or midfielders. If we’re going to find a midfielder, it’ll be an attacking midfielder. And we do believe we’ve got to solve our striker situation once and for all by (spending) significant money.”
“Money’s not the issue,” he added. “We have the money. But we have to find the right players.”
That means finding a player who wants to be here and wants to make a difference.
“It can’t just be a payday or a holiday or else that’s going to backfire.”
Leiweke reiterated that the GM search is not about hiring “a dynamo or world-class personality that is a great spinner.”
“I think the future of this league is about the (salary) cap, about trades, about player evaluation and about development. I think what we need to do is take a page out of the NBA’s book and find someone that’s analytical, a capologist that understands how to handle our cap and make sure we do not enter into bad deals, that gets along and knows every GM in the league and knows how to make trades.”
His comments seemed to suggest a growing role for Nelsen in player personnel.
Leiweke has pushed back the deadline to renew season tickets to January, telling fans that he will come back to them then.
“We don’t want you to make that decision now and, by the way, we don’t have the right to ask that decision now,” he said. “We’ll be back in January.
“We know where we’re going and we’re going to get there quickly.”
Toronto, on its eight manager in seven seasons, has a history of failure on the field that includes never having made the playoffs.
Leiweke also pointed to some of the team’s past mistakes, said TFC will stop trading away its draft picks.
“Those days are over, that I promise.”
He also said the franchise has also done a poor job of trading within the league.
The MLSE boss paid tribute to the fans, saying he was “shocked” by the turnout Sunday and their loyalty in the face of the team’s performance.
“We don’t deserve this,” he said.
Leiweke promised to talk to the ticket-holders in January “and let’s see how we’ve done.”
“Between now and then I’m tired of the BS and you ain’t going to get any from me. This is about rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. And that’s what we’re going to do between now and January.”
Before then, Leiweke said he given his staff specific instructions.
“No more promises, no more spin, no more assessment. I’m tired of that. That doesn’t solve a damn thing. What we’ve got to do is go work hard. That’s what we’re going to do.”
That seemed to be an unspoken reference to Payne, who often talked up the talent on the way.
Leiweke also addressed speculation that the CFL Argonauts might join the MLS team at BMO Field, with the stadium being retrofitted to accommodate football.
“Nothing’s going to happen until we have another conversation and you have input, I promise,” he said. “This hasn’t even been a subject or a discussion with our board. And when you’re talking about $60 (million) or a $100 million, believe me the board’s not only going to have an involvement, it’s not going to be a quick decision.
“So let’s not worry about that yet.”