Imagine you're a player at a prominent club outside the United States.
Recently, a team in Major League Soccer reached out to discuss the prospects of coming states-side to not only be a focal point for the team, but represent a new era of championship contention, an era dedicated to making significant investments in personnel decisions and establishing the necessary player development pathways.
From the team administrator's perspective, you're not only devoted to ensuring said player will fit into the system but that he, and in most cases his family too, will feel at home in the organization and community.
The overall goal, in short, is to make sure the only thing the player has to worry about is on the field.
The approach, the pitch, and the execution are the necessary but under-the-radar aspects to building a championship-caliber team, and it is but a glimpse of what Corey Wray and Jaime McMillan are expected to help with as the newest members of the Crew's Front Office.
Alums of Toronto FC, McMillan was, among other duties, instrumental in establishing player care support programming for families and friends of team members, while Wray was involved in player acquisitions, Designated Player recruitment, roster strategy, negotiations and club legacy projects, in addition to overseeing his former club's high potential player development program.
McMillan's and Wray's responsibilities will be similar at the Crew as the Club continues to balance a handful of projects, most prominent among them being the construction of both new Downtown Stadium and OhioHealth Performance Center, as well as laying out a full-fledged player development pathway.
Though both Wray and McMillan will play a role in off-the-field initiatives, that responsibility naturally gravitates towards McMillan, said President & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko.
"We have a lot of projects up in the air, whether that’s building a state-of-the-art stadium and performance center, or a championship-caliber roster. Simultaneously, there’s a lot of other high-level projects that will help us achieve those objectives, and Jaime is someone with the proven experience necessary to achieve them.
"Among those projects is how we address the care of our players. That is something that Jaime took ownership of while in Toronto and I firmly believe it became a sort of a cornerstone of the club, of the players feeling like they are not only respected but that their lives off the field are organized and structured."
While fans tend to see players through one specific lens, Bezbatchenko noted McMillan's rapport and even-keeled approach with all players on the roster.
"She commands respect and has the ability to talk to athletes without being intimidated, but also with the sense of authenticity and treating them as humans and the way they want to be treated. There’s no pretense about if you’re a star player or you’re an Academy athlete. ... And I think Jaime does a good job of balancing her communication style with the players."
While McMillan makes sure the club and players are comfortable in Columbus, they first have to agree to play for Columbus.
Wray, who will work closely with Technical Director, VP of Soccer Operations Pat Onstad and Bezbatchenko, comes to the Crew at a point in time described by high ambitions, to say the least.
So whether it's bringing home an MLS Cup for the first time since 2008, returning to the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in over a decade, or enhancing the player development pathway, there are processes that take place, and that's where Wray's experience touches all of those goals, Bezbatchenko said.
"Corey's worn so many hats over the years and he’ll be called on for the many needs we have here in Columbus as we enter this new era, so obviously we are excited to have him on board," said Bezbatchenko.
"Corey's experience spans a number of departments and projects. From team administration, to recruitment, to forming a second reserve team and not only creating a roster but making sure those in the player pathway are communicated to properly, these are the types of things Corey has worked on."
Bezbatchenko noted Wray's ability to bring a sense of clarity and remain level-headed in his decision making, particularly given his experience at nearly every rung of TFC's team operations ladder. Previously, Wray was promoted from the team's first-ever intern and eventually worked as Manager of Team Operations (2012-2014), Senior Manager of Team Operations (2014-2015), and Director of Team Operations (2015-2017) before serving as Assistant General Manager (2017-2020).
Current Crew Director of Player Personnel Issa Tall knew McMillan prior to Tall's stint at TFC and mentioned how Wray was one of the first people he met at the organization.
Tall said the duo embodies the same reputable traits that led him to want to work with Bezbatchenko and Onstad here in Columbus after previously working at FIFA’s HQ in Zurich, where he worked in their Team Services and Competition Department.
"At the end of the day, that’s what personally pushed me to come here because I knew I was going to work with Tim and Pat and I knew they were good people. That’s one of the reasons we can be excited to have [Jaime & Corey].”