Thursday, November 22, 2001

Kevin Payne’s departure as president and general manager of D.C. United became official yesterday when Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) acquired the operating rights to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and appointed him senior vice president of its five Major League Soccer teams.
Stephen Zack, United’s senior vice president, will assume Payne’s role in making all of United’s business decisions.
Payne is leaving United at a time when the club is coming off two straight losing seasons and doesn’t have a coach or technical director. On the field, United is undergoing a rebuilding process by using young, unproven players and hoping it will pay dividends.
“The transition in D.C. is ongoing,” Payne said on a conference call yesterday. “D.C. will be operated by … Stephen Zack, who is already there in D.C. and has been very involved since the beginning. And then we will hire a technical director as well who will be responsible for [player personnel]. My focus will be on the groupwide activities and how we can use the resources of our company to be more successful on the team level.”
Payne’s new job is to oversee five clubs that multi-billionaire Philip Anschutz operates. With Anschutz owning nearly half of the 12 Major League Soccer teams, Payne could save MLS or ruin the 6-year-old league. AEG controls United, the MetroStars, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“We have five teams, and we’re focused on how we can do the best job possible in assisting each of those teams and how best we can bring the resources of our company to bear to assist those five independent operations to succeed,” Payne said.
From a competitive aspect, there are many unanswered questions, especially how trades will work between AEG clubs. And will Payne show favoritism toward United because he had been the club’s president from the league’s inception in 1996? It’s unclear whether Payne will retain his office at United’s Chantilly, Va., headquarters.
Under Payne’s leadership, United became the most successful U.S. pro soccer club ever and became recognized on an international scale. United won three MLS Cups (1996, 1997 and 1999), CONCACAF Champions Cup (1998), Interamerican Cup (1999) and a U.S. Open Cup (1996) under Payne.
Note Eddie Pope, a defender for D.C. United and the U.S. team, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to fix cartilage damage in his left knee. The knee had been bothering Pope for nearly two years.
Pope, who is expected to play in next year’s World Cup, is scheduled to resume full training in January.

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