Columbus move a no brainer
as with another Hunt Sports Group team, FC Dallas -- if you're the assistant coach and you hang in there long enough, you will eventually be the head guy. Timo Liekoski was succeeded by his assistant, Tom Fitzgerald, who was succeeded by his assistant, Andrulis, who has now turned the reins over to Warzycha. John Murphy must be kicking himself for moving to Colorado.
You catching the trend here? Lamar Hunt probably would have fired Greg Andrulis last year after they had a similar start if he wasn't Lamar Hunt. The Hunts are all about loyalty and patience and they didn't get rich by making knee-jerk decisions. They are obviously in it for the long run. They have proven that with the way they have manage their organization, by building stadiums and by making tough decisions, including the pending sale of the Kansas City Wizards.
But this really wasn't a tough decision, and Robert Warzycha, consistent with the Hunts' history, will take the interim coaching tag. Assuming the team responds properly, expect him to be the full-time head coach by the end of this year.
Just for argument's sake, let's see who's out there scratching for their first opportunity at a head coaching position. You don't have to look much further than Sigi Schmid's U.S. under-20 staff, with ex-players like Peter Vermes, John Harkes and Mike Lapper, who have all been building their resumes and are very capable. In fact, Lapper still works for the Crew. And of course, you would also have to take a look at the other assistants around the country, like Tommy Soehn with D.C. United, Curt Onalfo with the U.S. national team, and the entire staff in Chicago, namely Denis Hamlett and Daryl Shore. I'm sure their printers have been at work this week as they prepare to submit their bids for the head coaching position in Columbus. And don't be surprised to see Tom Dooley's name surface at some point.
The thing I like about this is that the majority of these coaches are ex-players. They're not just ex-pros, but they're MLS veterans. I say that because I believe that you have to have played in this league to truly understand it, which makes it far easier to manage a team when you understand exactly what they are going through. And it probably is no coincidence that three of the last four champions were coached by former players in Frank Yallop (twice) and Peter Nowak last year.
While all these names are great, and maybe some Crew fans are anticipating big changes, I wouldn't hold your breath, Columbus. The Hunts will give Warzycha his shot, and they will make a decision that makes sense for Columbus and their overall long-term plan.
I guess the big question is what is wrong with Columbus in the first place? Was it a series of bad offseason moves, such as sending Cunningham to Colorado, acquiring Razov (who obviously did not work out), or trading Tony Sanneh away? Was Jon Busch's injury that big of a blow? Is Edson Buddle still on vacation? By the way, if you want to go on vacation, go somewhere like Los Angeles or New York and find a beach. Otherwise, pull up your socks and play. So what is it? Bad chemistry? Or maybe it was Andrulis' fault that the team went stagnant and are in desperate need of some energy. Maybe this team has simply lost belief in itself.
In my humble opinion, Columbus is a pretty good team that is obviously underachieving. They have some good leaders who could use some days off, some young talented players who look like they're lacking confidence, and then of course, there's some raw talent that could use some stroking. It's pretty clear that some of them could use a kick in the pants, and some of them could use a break. All in all, managing this team couldn't have been easy for Greg Andrulis and won't be easy for Robert Warzycha. But, hey, nobody said managing an MLS team is easy. You've got to know what your team needs. You misread it and you're done. You get it right and you're a hero. At least in Columbus, you are there for the next three and a half years.
This week, the Crew take on the Chicago Fire. The Fire have more points than everybody else simply because they've played more games. They are certainly beatable, and last year, it was in this stadium where Columbus started their 18-game unbeaten streak with a 3-1 victory against a much better Fire team. That was a surprise then, and it will probably be a surprise Saturday if Columbus manages to get a win.
Surprisingly enough, Chicago has no players in the All-Star Game. I guess that's the price you pay when you're Dave Sarachan and you don't care about what their names are but you care about how they play. There are certainly no marquee names left in Chicago (sorry, guys). However, impressive to me is one kid, Chris Rolfe. He's a kid I have enjoyed watching this year, and I expect him to get better as the season progresses. He has big shoes to fill when you're talking about scorers in Chicago, because since the departure of Ante Razov, the scoring has not been concentrated with one guy. Fourteen different players have scored for the Fire.
That makes for no stars, but a pretty good team that just happens to be in first place. Of course, there's a lot of energy in Chicago this weekend with the arrival of Real Madrid. Hopefully, the game before the Chivas de Guadalajara-Real Madrid game will have the kind of energy that might win some new fans in Chicago. David Beckham's arrival has been all over the news. I'm looking forward to both games. Prediction: Chicago 2, Columbus 2. Real Madrid 1, Chivas 1. They'll win on penalty kicks.
Former U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda scored the first goal in MLS history, and is currently the analyst on RadioShack's Soccer Saturday on ESPN2. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004, the first class of MLS players to be inducted. Eric can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.