All playoff exits sting for Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha, but the 1-0 wild card loss Thursday at Colorado was particularly distressing even after his revamped roster defied the critics all year.
“People are patting you on the back and saying, ‘Great job. We didn’t expect you to make the playoffs,’” he said Friday. “I knew we were going to get to the playoffs. I’m disappointed we didn’t get to the next round and the way we ended. We had good enough players. We just didn’t play good yesterday.”
The Crew gave up the lone goal to Omar Cummings in the 45th minute to continue a trend of having to play from behind.
They scored only nine first-half goals all season and were 4-14-5 when allowing the first goal, including a 0-11-2 mark on the road.
Warzycha said the problem stems from personnel, not systems.
“I don’t think we have a general on the field,” he said. “We don’t have the guy that can inspire guys with the slide tackle, with a brilliant performance, a great run; do something unusual. We didn’t have that guy this year.”
Critics would contend that the club let players go after last season that might fit the bill, such as Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk and Steven Lenhart.
But those players were also part of a group that also suffered a 1-0 loss at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the 2010 season en route to losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
There likely won’t be such a purge of talent moving forward in 2012, but Warzycha promised changes.
“Every single year it’s the same,” he said. “The players at the table eating dinner after the game will not sit again at the table with the same personnel. It’s as simple as that.
“That’s reality. I’m not using that as a threat to anybody. When you have a chance, and have a team around you that can win, you have to do whatever you can to use everybody’s strength and play your best.”
Warzycha will almost certainly come under scrutiny again because the Crew have yet to advance out of the first round in his three seasons in charge, and the’ve lost all three away playoff games 1-0.
Somewhat like 2009, when he sat Schelotto in a loss at Real Salt Lake, Warzycha did not bring in second leading scorer Emilio Rentería (eight goals) until the 65th minute.
Warzycha felt the forward would be more effective off the bench.
“If I had a choice for starting him and taking him off in the 65th minute, I’d put him in at the end because he’s a very dangerous threat,” he said. “[Colorado] are a little bit tired and he had energy for the last 25 minutes.”
With midfielder Robbie Rogers starting for Rentería, the Crew used a 4-5-1 but lost the battle in middle, goalkeeper William Hesmer said.
“We had two new guys [Rich Balchan and Tony Tchani] basically playing in the middle and [Dilly] Duka playing underneath,” he said. “Once we seemed to win the ball, it was a mess. We would turn the ball over and really never created dangerous chances off of winning the ball in a good spot.”