Toronto FC will introduce Tim Bezbatchenko as its new general manager Friday morning.
Two sources confirmed that Bezbatchenko, currently senior director of player relations and competition at Major League Soccer, has been hired to take over Toronto’s front office.
Toronto has scheduled what it calls a major announcement for Friday. The team had no comment on the subject matter.
Bezbatchenko is a young league insider with intimate knowledge of MLS’s complicated legal landscape.
His job will be to help manager Ryan Nelsen get what he needs to continue the reconstruction of a moribund franchise.
The 4-14-11 MLS team fired president and general manager Kevin Payne on Sept. 5 with Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, saying the two were no longer on the same page.
Earl Cochrane, Payne’s right-hand man and Toronto’s director of team and player operations, was also fired. Chief scout Pat Onstad subsequently left.
The team then traded Argentine striker Maximiliano Urruti, Payne’s prize acquisition, to Portland after just 37 minutes action in a Toronto uniform.
Leiweke told season tickets-holders at a team barbecue on Sept. 8 that work was well underway on the GM search.
“This won’t be a long search. We’re already down to two [candidates],” he said.
Garth Lagerwey, Real Salt Lake’s GM and senior vice-president of soccer operations, was reported to be a man in demand. But he is sticking with his 14-9-6 franchise, one of many looking down at Toronto in the standings.
In firing Payne, Leiweke was specific about what he wanted in the new GM — someone with intimate knowledge of the league’s intricate salary cap and with a playing background.
Bezbatchenko ticks off the boxes. A lawyer with degrees from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Richmond, he comes from the league’s inner circle. He also played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2004-05, joining the league in 2010 after two years with the law firm Shearman & Sterling.
Leiweke has also given an unqualified vote of confidence to Nelsen, saying the new GM would have to work with him in 2014.
Nelsen’s role in the club has grown in recent weeks, given the leadership void around him. The team’s eighth coach in seven seasons has his hand firmly on the team tiller.
The underachieving MLS team is no stranger to upheaval — or news conferences heralding a new beginning or signalling the end of another era.
The club has more decisions to make. Nelsen and Leiweke have both said they are after two marquee designated player strikers in the January transfer window.
The MLSE board is behind them, having authorized US$26 million to spend on two such signings in the August transfer window. The money went unused.
Nelsen also looks to revamp his roster, using allocation money and the space he now has under the salary cap to bring in some battle-hardened MLS veterans.
He has several players he can move to facilitate bringing in such new talent.