Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC GM Sheds Light on Urutti Case, Says League Helped Sign Argentine

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC GM Sheds Light on Urutti Case, Says League Helped Sign Argentine

Article excerpt

Toronto FC GM sheds light on Urutti case

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TORONTO - When Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen referred to former forward Maximiliano Urutti as a "league designated player," Major League Soccer was quick to deny such a designation existed.

But it appears the league did dip into a special fund to help Toronto FC sign the Argentine striker, who was subsequently traded to Portland.

Nelsen continues to use the term "league DP." But Toronto's new GM Tim Bezbatchenko, formerly senior director of player relations and competition at Major League Soccer, says there is no such animal.

Teams are allowed up to three marquee designated players with only a portion of their pay counting against the salary cap. For example, Toronto's Dutch striker Danny Koevermans is making US$1.66 million this season but only $368,750 goes on the cap.

The MLS was formed in 1996 as a single-entity structure. Investor-operators had a share of the league and were given franchise(s) to run but most personnel decisions were made at head office.

Teams have far more say in their roster these days, but the league remains involved.

Asked about the Urutti case, Bezbatchenko said there were a variety of league initiatives and funds "that help teams with resources to acquire players, including DPs."

"Now there's no such thing as a league DP. What he (Nelsen) is referring to is that sort of subsidy. But that's not unlike a lot of other players in the league."

Bezbatchenko said former team president Kevin Payne, who was a fan of Argentine talent, and other team staff identified Urutti as a player to chase.

"There's no such thing as the league going finding players and saying 'Here, this is your guy, this is a league DP and you have to play them.' That does not exist.

"Now what he's referring to is just sort of the subsidy and then the involvement from the league office to acquire him and help acquire him was higher with these players."

Essentially the fund helps select MLS clubs get their man, with the league throwing its weight behind the hunt.

While Bezbatchenko shot down league involvement in how much action such players would get, it would seem natural that the league might want to see its investment showcased.

Asked if the subsidy program was new, Bezbatchenko replied: "I would say it's new in the sense that there's more involvement to help the teams acquire the players.

"What we've seen is that our strike rate with DPs is not the best," he added. "Whether or not it's Toronto or anywhere else. Why not leverage the league's resources to help -- not scout -- but help the teams find the players? And that's what this is about.

"There's been some of it in the past but we're doing it more."

This league help is "based on what the team needs and it's based on how they performed in the years prior."

Toronto had the worst record in the league last season. …

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