“He has meant so much to this club, it will be strange not having him around,” said Olsen, who forged a strong bond with Payne during a 15-year playing and coaching career in Washington. “His loyalty to the team and me is something for which I’ll always be indebted.”
Aside from serving as president, Payne also was United’s first general manager. He hired Bruce Arena, a successful coach at the University of Virginia, to guide the nascent squad. United advanced to MLS Cup each of the first four years, raising three trophies, and won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup, an international tournament.
United also won the U.S. Open Cup twice and the Supporters’ Shield (most points in the regular season) four times.
Payne served as United’s president and GM until 2001, when he was named managing director for AEG Sports, which, at the time, operated several MLS teams, including United. Despite the broader role, he kept the same office. Payne returned to full-time duty with United in 2004, the last time the club won the league title.
“This is a strange day, not necessarily a day I ever maybe thought I would see,” said Payne, a longtime Reston resident. “There will always be a part of me with D.C. United. It’s been quite a wonderful ride.”
United notes: Olsen finished third in MLS coach of the year voting behind, in order, San Jose’s Frank Yallop and Kansas City’s Peter Vermes. . . .
Chris Pontius, who returned from a broken leg to lead United in scoring and make MLS’s Best XI list, was second to Seattle’s Eddie Johnson for the comeback award. . . .
Josh Wolff, a veteran forward who also served as an assistant coach, will retire and join the staff full-time, Olsen said. . . .
Olsen will fly to Argentina on Thursday to begin a series of scouting missions.