Despite Once A Metro’s best efforts to encourage Columbus Crew to follow through on its rumored desire to employ the former New York Red Bulls sporting director, the now-saved Crew’s preference was for TFC’s (former) GM, Tim Bezbatchenko, to run its show. That in turn created the vacancy which Toronto opted to fill by hiring Curtis.
MLS being what it is, Columbus’ move for Bezbatchenko had not been formally announced before TFC unveiled the new GM it needed because of the Crew’s new hire.
Curtis is picking up in MLS more or less where he left off. He abruptly quit RBNY on the eve of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft; he joins TFC in time for the club’s final preparations for the 2019 SuperDraft. He’s been hired to do a similar job too: at RBNY, Curtis’ was tasked with rebuilding the club in the image of its RB brethren in Europe, including a shift away from a high-profile, high-budget squad to a more thrifty approach to roster-building; our friends at Waking The Red note that Toronto is expected to tone down its high-spending ways over the course of the next few years.
But Curtis will first need to help head coach Greg Vanney get the best out of what remains of the club’s commitment to a squad built around the expensive talents of Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco.
There will be some pressure on Curtis to get the transition right. Bezbatchenko was handed the keys to a team that had never been to the MLS playoffs, and he got funding and patience to put together a squad that ultimately delivered one of the best seasons in MLS history: the 2017 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup, and the Canadian Championship (which Toronto wins for fun, in good years and bad). Overall, the team’s record with Bezbatchenko as GM is uneven: just two winning seasons out of five, and the shine came off the 2017 squad fast as TFC didn’t make the cut for the playoffs in 2018.
Still, Bezbatchenko’s legacy at TFC is a club that now counts itself among the best in MLS and expects results to match. There is no suggestion that Curtis is being asked to do anything quite as dramatic to provoke fans’ wrath as he did on arrival at RBNY, but there’s probably only room for one GM in TFC history who can be hailed as a hero after walking away from a season in which the team got just 36 points from 34 league games. Much as he did at RBNY, Curtis will need positive results to soften the blow if he is indeed being asked to lead Toronto to a lower-budget future.
He joins a club that has become something of a refuge for former RBNY players and staff: Altidore, Bradley, and back-up ‘keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell on the roster; Robin Fraser and Jon Conway on the coaching team; Eric Giacometti on the club’s comms staff. TFC is perhaps one loan from RB Salzburg and a USL title away from being re-branded RB Canada.
Whatever TFC’s future holds, it has picked a man who has already implemented one of the most dramatic and successful overhauls of a club in recent MLS history. Smart hire, Toronto - congrats. And welcome back to MLS, Ali.