INDIANAPOLIS -- For a team that has been a perennial punchline and whose incoming coach, Ryan Nelsen, currently still plays for Queens Park Rangers, Toronto FC had itself quite the productive day at the office Thursday.
Toronto FC entered the 2013 MLS SuperDraft with two of the first three picks and a variety of avenues in which to improve its roster in hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time in team history. With new team president Kevin Payne running the show, Toronto managed to grab its top-rated player in Boston College midfielder and Canadian youth international Kyle Bekker, with the third overall selection. It was what TFC was able to do with its No. 1 overall pick that turned heads, though.
Toronto spun off a series of three trades in which the club accumulated allocation money from the New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders. For a draft class that was not considered to be one of the most talented in recent years, the financial flexibility that Toronto was able to accrue may prove to be the best use of the top pick.
"It was a good position for us, because we got the added value, but we knew Kyle would still be there at No. 3," Payne said. "We knew who [the Revolution] were going to pick, and we knew who Chivas was going to pick. It left us really in a lot of ways still in control of the draft at Nos. 3 and 4, and then it was just seeing who wanted to offer what to move up higher.
"We've increased what we had by 75 percent, so we've got a big chunk of allocation money now that we can use to make our team better.
"Money's important. We have a bigger salary cap now than we had before we started the day, that's the bottom line. We had some big contracts that I inherited that we have to accommodate. This gives us a better opportunity to build a team around those."
Louisville's Andrew Farrell ended up going first overall to the Revolution with the pick that Toronto dubiously earned for having the worst record in the league last season. Despite being complimentary of Farrell's game, Payne said that the club's young center backs, newly acquired U.S. international Gale Agbossoumonde and Doneil Henry, were "better than anybody that was in this draft," and he pointed out that both were younger, had more experience and were bigger than Farrell.
Payne said that had Toronto kept the first overall pick, he would have used it on Bekker, a player he raved about following the selection.
"Had we used the No. 1 pick, we would have used it on Kyle," Payne said. "We felt going in that he was probably the most pro ready, and nothing he did [at the MLS Combine] changed our opinion at all, it only reinforced it.
"We talk about technical speed, tactical speed and physical speed. Kyle doesn't have the greatest physical speed. He's not slow, but he's not a burner. He's so sound technically and can play quickly, and tactically he's way ahead of anyone else in the draft."
After eventually trading down to No. 16 overall, Toronto selected another Toronto-area native, Oregon State forward Emery Welshman. Despite having the minimum allotment of Canadian citizens on the roster, Payne spoke of cultivating an identity that emanates with the city. Bekker and Welshman both fit that bill and are expected to be integrated into the team off the bat.
"We actually got the two players we really wanted and we got a bunch of money, so we're pretty pleased about that," Payne said. "We love the fact that they're both from the greater Toronto area. They both grew up cheering for this team, the crest means something to them before they even put the shirt on, and that's important to us."
As for Nelsen, Payne said that there is nothing new to report on his situation. He added that Nelsen is in constant contact with the club, and that "he'll be here when he's here." In terms of the draft, Payne said that he had a part in the draft process by watching the Combine online and doing research on the available talent and was on the phone with the team during the draft.