Coaching decision didn't come easy, but change was needed
For Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers, the decision didn't come easy, but it was time for a change.
After losing seven of their last 10 matches, the Black & Gold parted ways with Head Coach Robert Warzycha after 18 years of service to the club as a player and coach. The club's recent form and change in ownership were also contributing factors to the decision.
Current Technical Director Brian Bliss will take over coaching duties in the interim.
"With new ownership, [club Chairman] Anthony [Precourt] wanted time to evaluate not only the competition side of the organization, but all aspects of the organization," McCullers said. "He's been following the club for some time now, so we thought it was in the best interest of the club and the coaches to make the change at this time."
With eight matches remaining in the season, the Crew sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Only eight points out of fifth place, there is still an outside shot at returning to the MLS Cup Playoffs with Bliss at the helm.
"Time will tell, but I know Brian Bliss is an exceptionally good coach," McCullers said. "I know it's going to change the team dynamic. It's going to be a different voice. It's going to be a different perspective.
"I'm hoping and I'm very optimistic that this is going to spark the team and that we're going to make a run at the playoffs and try to get in this year."
Though fans shouldn't expect an immediate difference in the team's play with a home match coming on Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo, Bliss hopes to breathe some life into the Black & Gold as Interim Head Coach.
"We've talked about it in the past that maybe we need to play a bit more up-tempo, try to get to the goal a little quicker and probably recovering the ball a little quicker. Those are three areas of priority," Bliss admitted.
"It's going to take me a couple weeks to find my feet a little bit, but it's certainly not uncharted water. I hope to be able to lay some groundwork for some things next week when we have a full week of training. This week will be difficult because it's two games in four days and you have one of them away. It's not easy to get things turned around that quickly."
Taking over in midseason is not unchartered territory for Bliss, who was named as the Kansas City Wizards Interim Head Coach after Bob Gansler was fired midway through the 2006 season. The former Crew and U.S. Men's National Team defender has also coached the Crew Juniors U-19 and U-20 teams to multiple national championships and most recently served on Tab Ramos' U.S. U-20 National Team coaching staff in the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey.
"Every situation is different. Both of these were kind of out of the blue and unexpected," Bliss explained. "One of the positives of this is that I've been the coaching arena for a long time. Maybe not 11 months out of the year, but keeping a hand in the Crew U-19s and U-20s the last five years and working with Tab Ramos and the U.S. Under-20s over the last 15-18 months keeps me current on coaching trends and managing people and designing training sessions."
In the long-term search for Warzycha's replacement, Precourt has stated that Bliss will be a candidate for the permanent role as Head Coach.
For Bliss, the next eight matches will be an audition.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "You never want it to happen this way, but sometimes life takes some funny turns and this is the opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge, and I think I'm up to it."