TFC in talks with Lagerwey about president’s job

Michael Bradley in action for Toronto FC. (Chris Young/CP).

Toronto FC is looking to hire a new club president, and they have their sights set on Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey.

MLSE has been in talks with Lagerwey about becoming the team’s president, a well-placed source within the organization confirmed to Sportsnet. While discussions are ongoing, no deal has been agreed upon.

The same source said former Canadian national team coach Holger Osieck is another candidate MLSE is considering for Toronto FC’s president position.

Lagerwey is currently in the last year of his contract with Real Salt Lake, and was to begin renegotiation talks with RSL ownership last week.

At a media luncheon in early March, Lagerwey said he'd be interested in one day running a Major League Soccer club as a team president.

"If there are opportunities—and there aren't any right now—but if there might be in the future, that is something I'd like to consider," Lagerwey said.

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The potential hiring of Lagerwey would be a major coup by Toronto FC, who finished the 2014 MLS season in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and failed to qualify for the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year.

Lagerwey, 41, is regarded as one of the best general managers—if not the best GM—in all of MLS. In 2007, he was hired by Real Salt Lake as general manager and senior vice president and went on to build the Utah outfit into one of the top clubs in the league.

During Lagerwey’s seven-year tenure, Real Salt Lake has posted a 99-66-61 record, with playoff appearances each season and an MLS Cup title in 2009. The team also finished MLS Cup runners-up in 2013. It's the kind of sustained success that has seen RSL to 15 or more wins and between 53 and 57 points in every regular-season since their 2009 title.

Moreover, having finished as runners up in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, Real Salt Lake remains the only MLS side to play in the finals of the continental championship—five of the six tournament finals have been contested between two Mexican sides.

What really sets Lagerwey apart from his counterparts has been his ability to build consistent championship-calibre squads within MLS’ salary cap system.

Designated players Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio earned a combined $753,333 in 2014, and midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando—cornerstones of the Salt Lake franchise and two of the best players in the league at their positions—aren’t signed to DP deals.

Also, RSL’s Arizona-based youth academy, created during Lagerwey’s tenure, has won youth titles and been a direct player pipeline to the first team. Current TFC coach Greg Vanney served as Salt Lake youth academy director from 2008 to 2011.

Real Salt Lake was eliminated from this year’s MLS playoffs following a 5-0 loss to the LA Galaxy in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals.

If Lagerwey becomes the new team president it would represent a major change in TFC’s management structure.

Since entering the league in 2007, TFC has generally operated with the GM serving as the team architect and final decision maker. The only dedicated club president they’ve had was Kevin Payne, who was also the club’s GM. Payne was fired by MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke last September after less than a year on the job.

If Lagerwey does come in as club president, it’ll be interesting to see how much power—if any—is taken away from current general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, and how the two would work together.

A former goalkeeper, Lagerwey played NCAA soccer with Duke University and was selected by D.C. United in MLS’ inaugural college draft in 1996. He never played a game for D.C., as they traded him to the Kansas City Wizards. In 1995, he moved to the Dallas Burn but was waived the following year. A stint with the Miami Fusion followed before he eventually retired in 2000.

An MLSE spokesperson declined to officially comment on this story when contacted by Sportsnet.

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