Crew's Bliss still focused on draft despite US U-20 role

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Brian Bliss said his undivided attention will be on Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, just as it had been his previous three drafts as technical director of the Columbus Crew.

This time, however, it may be a little bit trickier, since he’s recently been added to the staff of the US Under-20 men’s national team as a part-time assistant.

“Nothing’s changed,” Bliss told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m still going to be doing the same things.”

That means helping Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers and head coach Robert Warzycha select players at the 10th, 26th and 29th spots of the draft in Kansas City.

Bliss, who earned 33 caps for the senior US squad from 1984 to 1995, was with the pair in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for the MLS Combine, which concluded on Tuesday afternoon. This was after opening the new year by spending several days at the U-20 camp in the Sunshine State under the direction of new coach – and former US teammate – Tab Ramos.

While the schedule has so far conveniently worked out, Bliss understands there will be times his responsibilities will keep him away from the Crew. But feels it will be manageable.

“There’s some things that will arise that I can’t do being away from the office, but in terms of dealing with agents, getting contract offers out on guys or scouting,” he said, “that can all be done whether I’m in Florida or at the Home Depot Center or even Argentina or Europe. You can still communicate with people.”

Some of his tasks with the Crew are expected to fall to Duncan Oughton as the Kiwi enters his second season as assistant to the technical director following the end of his playing days in 2010.

Warzycha said Bliss’ association with the U-20s should help the Crew.

“He will know the players who are going to be in the draft,” the coach explained. "He’ll have a good eye on them."

Bliss plans to continue coaching the Crew’s youth teams as much as possible this summer. The Crew Juniors U-20s have won consecutive USL Super-20 national championships and the U-19s claimed the United States Youth Soccer national title in 2010.

“There’s some overlap of duties in late June, early July where there could be some conflicts, but we’ve got Ian Gardona and Jeremy Parkins from our [youth development] staff and Duncan as well to help offset that,” Bliss said. “It’s also a good opportunity for those guys to run training on their own for a week.”

Crew cuts:

North Carolina midfielder Ben Speas is expected to sign a Home Grown Player contract with the Crew before Thursday’s draft.

Also, rumors continue that out-of-contract midfielder Robbie Rogers will sign with England’s Leeds United. Messages to Rogers and his agent by MLSsoccer.com were not returned.

“We have to go on with life without him,” Warzycha said.

Finally, recent Home Grown signee Matt Lampson and midfielder Dilly Duka have been called to the U-23 training camp through Jan. 18 in Carson, Calif., before shifting to Costa Rica for two matches against local clubs.