Kick Off: President and GM Kevin Payne sent packing by Toronto FC

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Kick Off: President and GM Kevin Payne sent packing by Toronto FC
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Kick Off: President and GM Kevin Payne sent packing by Toronto FC

Here are the top 14 soccer stories we’re following today

1. KEVIN PAYNE OUT AT TORONTO FC

The news broke on Wednesday afternoon that Toronto FC have parted ways with president and general manager Kevin Payne, less than a year after he was hired to rebuild TFC. The club confirmed the news on Thursday morning and the Toronto Star's report indiciates Payne will remain with the team until the end of the month to help with the transition, and his dismissal is believed to be the first in a number of changes as ownerships looks to start building for a more successful 2014. According to the report, a leading candidate to replace Payne is Real Salt Lake's Garth Lagerwey, who is pleased with how his own rebuilding project is currently progressing. Lagerwey has not commented publicly on the report linking him to TFC.

2. NEW MANAGER, NEW RESULT FOR COLUMBUS CREW

Life without Robert Warzycha got off to a pretty good start for the Columbus Crew on Wednesday in a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo (watch highlights here). Despite the good result for a young Crew side the Dynamo had more than enough chances to take control of the game early on which, unfortunately for them, Will Bruin was unable to capitalize on. For Crew interim manager Brian Bliss, there had been no time to implement tactical changes since taking charge, but he did note a change in attitude: “I think these guys had the right frame of mind.” However, as this article from Jeff Carlisle at ESPNFC.com suggests, there is still a lot of work the Crew need to do.

3. SOUNDERS CONTINUE SURGE TO THE TOP

When the Seattle Sounders still had so many games in hand, it was easy for people to suggest they were struggling in the standings. But with a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday night (watch highlights here) the Sounders now have the best points-per-game ratio (1.72) and have shut out opponents for the past 286 minutes, move up to third in the Western conference, level on points with the LA Galaxy with a game in hand. With luck seemingly now on their side, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid is clear what his side needs to do next “as long as we take each of those games … and put them in our pocket, we will continue to climb and rise up the standings.”

4.  COSTA RICAN MIND GAMES AHEAD OF FRIDAYS MATCH

The Costa Ricans sure know how to hold a grudge. Still upset about the infamous snow game in Denver this past spring, the Costa Rican FA has resorted to a number of techniques to try and throw the USA off their game, and one website even features a guide on what fans can and can’t get away with doing. Yet the question remains, why are the Ticos blaming the US for that game? As Jurgen Klinsmann points out “I didn’t call God to give us some snow.”

5. THE MOST UNAPPRECIATED MAN IN THE US?

“When you play against Jermaine, you know who’s in control." That’s Klinsmann talking about Jermaine Jones. It’s been a long road to this point for Jones, the American holding midfielder who rarely wins plaudits from the fans for his performances and is most often associated with physical displays and discipline issues. But as American Soccer Now examines, he brings a lot more to the US squad.

6. DOM DWYER ON HIS WAY TO ORLANDO … AGAIN

Dom Dwyer’s last game for Orlando City was the 5-1 defeat to the Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup. Now there is just one game left in the USL PRO season and it’s the big one: Orlando City will take on the Charlotte Eagles in the championship game on Saturday and, as such, they’ve called in reinforcements. For Dwyer, it’s a good opportunity to “get one final game and make it right.” Meanwhile, now that the season is over for the Richmond Kickers, their D.C. United loanees reflect on the campaign just finished.

7. ONE CHALLENGE AT A TIME FOR JUAN AGUDELO

Juan Agudelo is playing well and enjoying himself right now but, in an interview for MLSsoccer.com with Jeff Bradley, he talks about how he’s also really looking forward to his time in England. So, why have the New England Revolution absolutely refused to let Agudelo go any earlier than they have to? Does it maybe have something to do with his six goals from 11 shots in eight appearances? That’s a large part of it, but as MLSsoccer.com's Devin Pleuler reveals, it’s so much more than that.

8. AS KAMARA MOVES TO MIDDLESBROUGH, WHO GAINS THE MOST?

With Kei Kamara’s move to Middlebrough, the forward from Sierra Leone has fulfilled his dream of a transfer to Europe. And while Sporting Kansas City are left with a heart-shaped shaped hole to fill up front, the move will benefit SKC in the long run, according to Kyle McCarthy at goal.com. Yet Kamara hasn’t joined a Premier League team, he’s joined a Championship side. So the question is, with recent developments in MLS, has Kamara stepped up or down?

9. FROM PAYBACK TO PAY MORE, WHAT IS EDDIE JOHNSON WORTH?

In 2012, Eddie Johnson was resurrecting a career that had hit a slump, and now he’s chasing what he feels is a well deserved pay rise. It’s been quite a year for Johnson, but does the US forward actually perform better when he feels the world is against him? Brian Straus at SI.com looks at the history and what EJ might, realistically, be in line for.

10. PLAYER FC

Sure, a lot of people like Barcelona, but would half as many people claim to be fans if Lionel Messi packed up and left? Better yet, now that Clint Dempsey’s no long at Spurs, does anyone care half as much how they get on? Roger Bennett at ESPNFC.com asks if it’s possible to support players rather than teams.

11. CITY STAR INTERESTED IN JOINING MLS

Manchester City’s preseason trip to the states must have made one heck of an impression on some of the team, as Samir Nasri has become the second City player in a matter of days to express his interest in playing in MLS. Said Nasri, “In the future, I don’t know yet. I would like to discover the MLS, I love American culture.”

12. SAN ANTONIO MAKING ITS MOVE FOR AN MLS SPOT?

There’s no denying that San Antonio have the stadium, the infrastructure and the fan base that would make it a potential candidate for an MLS expansion spot. Certainly one person who feels that way is San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who recently wrote a letter to MLS Commissioner Don Garber in support of his city’s team.

13. USA-MEXICO TO BE COVERED FROM EVERY ANGLE

ESPN is about to up its game. Coverage for next week's showdown in Columbus starts on Friday with “Quest to Qualify,” a whiparound show which can drop in on any of the 17 live games taking place at the time. The show will be repeated on Tuesday for another 13 games before the network kicks off its presentation of the US vs. Mexico which, by all accounts, will be on a scale never seen before.

14. SUPERDRAFT REUNION

Thursday afternoon sees the next part in MLSsoccer.com's Google+ hangout series and, with this season's Rookie of the Year contest shaping up to be a particularly close race, this time it’s a reunion featuring four players from the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Got a question you’d like to ask Devon Sandoval, Andrew Farell, Deshorn Brown or Dillon Powers? Click on the link, leave it in the comments section and be sure to tune in at 4 pm ET on MLSsoccer.com.

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