COLUMBUS, Ohio — "Disappointing" was the word of the evening after the Columbus Crew's season came to an end Sunday in a 1-0 home loss to the New England Revolution.
Interim head coach and technical director Brian Bliss walked off the field for what may be his last time at the helm of the club, and into the uncertainty surrounding the team's head coaching position that is expected to be defined by "mid-November." Posting a 4-4 record in his eight-match interim role compared to the team's 8-13-5 record with ex-coach Robert Warzycha, Bliss believes he has done enough to earn the job.
"I know what I did," Bliss told reporters after the match. "I know how I view the game. I know how I feel the game should be played and what needs to happen in training every day in order to get that end result. I still believe in those methods and views of the game. I'm biased. I would say I think I got us on the right track, but that's for others to determine."
On Friday, Crew chairman Anthony Precourt told MLSsoccer.com that Bliss did a "tremendous" job in his tenure, and he confirmed that Bliss was among the final candidates for the permanent position.
"The players have really responded to him," Precourt said. "He's provided great leadership, and under adversity, he's had a lot of success as our coach while maintaining our technical director responsibilities. So he's been a real hero of the season. We're very proud of what he's done, and he's obviously a finalist for the job."
Midfielder Ben Speas said that both he and the team as a whole have benefited under Bliss, and that losses in the final two games hadn't changed his opinion of the job Bliss did.
"It's been great," Speas said after the match. "Training has been great. I feel like personally I've gotten better, and the team has had a great understanding of what needed to be done. I thought we got off to a real hot start, and those wins, it was great. This bitter taste in our mouth at the end, I don't think that was reflective of how we've done since [Bliss took over]."
Despite Bliss doing his best to turn the season around, the interim coach did not shy away from calling 2013 "absolutely" disappointing.
"I know we're missing players in Glauber and Eddie [Gaven, both lost for the season with ACL tears], and [Federico] Higuain didn't play in 50 percent of the games I was in charge of, but every team has guys who are missing, suspended, gone for national team duty, injured," Bliss said. "Those are excuses. They're reasons, but they're also excuses. ... To sum it up, yeah, it's a little bit disappointing overall."
In what may have been his final postgame address to the team, Bliss said he thanked his players and praised their strong finish to the season.
"I told them I appreciate the work for the last eight, nine weeks," he said. "It's not easy to come in and change the mindset of the team, make a cultural shift in what we're trying to do. I applauded them for their efforts to make that change and be flexible, but at the end you've still got to win games."
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.