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Payne questions fitness of Toronto players
by Paul Kennedy, February 1st, 2013 1AM

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[MLS 2013 COUNTDOWN] When he took the job of president in late November, Kevin Payne figured he had a lot of work ahead of him to turn around hapless Toronto FC. But he may not have realized what he was getting himself in until winter training camp opened 10 days ago at the Kia Training Ground, where he discovered some of the players had arrived out of shape.

Payne said some players had arrived in shape for training being conducted by Irishman Fran O'Leary while new head coach Ryan Nelsen finished up his playing obligations at English club QPR, but "more than one or two who were not close to being fit."

“Ryan feels the same way,” Payne said. “We were kind of joking -- being paid to go to the gym, now how hard is that? Most people have to spend money to go to the gym and shoe-horn it into their schedule. There’s just no excuse for it. In D.C., we didn’t accept it and there was an enormous level of peer pressure brought to bear on guys that showed up unfit, and we need to get to that point here. That’s not the case right now. I didn’t see any evidence of that within the locker room.”

Two of TFC's three returning Designated Players, Torsten Frings and Eric Hassli, were kept out of training as a precaution until the team arrived in Florida, and the third, Danny Koevermans, is sidelined until June. All three are coming off injury-plagued seasons.

“It’s a new situation for Fran and Ryan and we’re tying to be fair to people, trying to keep an open mind,” Payne said about the status of the Toronto DPs. “We don’t want to kind of throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.”

Payne acknowledged Toronto finds itself in a difficult situation because Frings, Koevermans and Hassli, along with defenders Darren O’Dea and Richard Eckersley, take up “a very very very large percentage of our salary cap.”

On Friday, Toronto FC is heading to Orlando, where Nelsen will join the team for outdoor training.

MLS PRESEASON RESULTS:
Thursday, Jan. 31
Houston 1 (Elliott) Colorado 0.


CHICAGO. Brendan King is returning to the Windy City after stints in Norway (Alta) and Ireland (Bray Wanderers). The former U.S. U-17 international midfielder signed with the Fire and will join the team in the second leg of preseason in Ventura, Calif. The Notre Dame product is the son of longtime U.S. Soccer executive Tom King.

D.C. UNITED. D.C. United rewarded Ben Olsen for leading the club to the 2012 Eastern Conference final by exercising its option to extend his contract as head coach through the 2014 season.

“Ben has had the leading role in rebuilding D.C. United and he is extremely deserving to have his option exercised a year in advance,” said D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper in a statement. “We are very excited about our future with Ben as our head coach.” Olsen took over as interim coach in August 2010 and was hired as head coach in November 2010. United's 2012 playoff appearance was its first in four years.

SAN JOSE. Simon Dawkins, who was a key factor in the Earthquakes' explosive attack in 2012, was lost, at least through the end of June, as Tottenham, which owns his contract, loaned him to struggling Aston Villa. The Quakes' bid to acquire the 25-year-old Dawkins was rejected as Spurs' asking price was too high. In two years on loan to the Quakes, Dawkins scored 14 goals in 53 appearances.

MLS PRESEASON SCHEDULE:
Friday, Feb. 1
Columbus vs. New York at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
D.C. United vs. Malmö FF at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Los Angeles vs. U.S. U-17 national team at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
*Sporting KC vs. Portland (The Desert Friendlies) at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
Saturday, Feb. 2
*Houston vs. Vancouver (The Desert Friendlies) at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
*San Jose vs. Colorado (The Desert Friendlies) at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
*Streamed on mlssoccer.com


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