One month after taking over ownership of the Columbus Crew, Anthony Precourt made his first big move on Monday, parting ways with head coach Robert Warzycha.
Technical director Brian Bliss takes over as interim head coach with the hope of helping the Crew (8-13-5, 29pts) make up the eight points that currently separate them from the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. He will have eight regular season matches remaining to accomplish the feat, beginning with Wednesday's home match-up against the Houston Dynamo (7:30 ET, MLS LIVE).
Assistant Coaches Ricardo Iribarren and Vojislav Stanisic were also let go, with Mike Lapper staying on to work with Bliss.
Warzycha's ousting comes on the heels of a 1-0 home loss to the Seattle Sounders in a match that saw the Crew enjoy a one-man advantage from the start when Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez was shown a red card in the 7th minute.
“I have been intently following this team since mid-April when we decided to explore the possibility of acquiring the Crew,” Precourt said in a club statement. "When we came to the conclusion that we were not going to retain Robert beyond this season, it was apparent that we needed to make this change now so that we can refocus the club around Brian’s leadership for the remainder of this season, as well as get the process started on finding a new head coach."
Warzycha, who was in his fifth year as Crew manager, has been with the club for 18 years since the inaugural season in 1996, occupying playing and coaching capacities. He departs with the most regular season wins by a Crew head coach (70, tied with Tom Fitzgerald) in addition to having led the Black-and-Gold to the 2009 Supporters’ Shield, back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League semifinal appearances and a 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.
“It is with mixed emotions that I accept this position,” Bliss said in the club's statement. “Robert is a true professional and a close friend, and I will personally miss working with him.
Bliss has been a technical director for the Crew over six years and will maintain those duties while taking over the coaching reins. A former assistant coach in Kansas City, where he also served as interim head coach in 2006, Bliss was most recently an assistant for Tab Ramos on the US Under-20 national team which participated in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this year.
“Sometimes in these situations a fresh perspective and a new voice are needed,” continued Bliss. “I’m confident in our players and the talent on our roster. I know these guys have a lot of fight in them, and they have the desire to continue battling and finish strong. Our fans deserve to see the best out of this team, and I plan to do what’s necessary to make that happen.”
Bliss will get a shot at the full-time gig, according to team president and GM Mark McCullers, who also confirmed the club has already started the process of seeking candidates for the full-time position.
“We plan to be very thorough and detailed in our process to find a new head coach,” McCullers said in a statement. “Brian deserves the opportunity to be part of that process, and we plan to have a lot of conversations over the course of the next few months.”