OBETZ, Ohio – The Columbus Crew had several surprisingly good stretches in 2011, especially considering the roster upheaval over the prior offseason that at times left nearly as many first- and second-year players on the field as veterans.
There was the team record four-consecutive shutouts after an opening loss at D.C. United and a 5-1-1 stretch during the heat of the summer that catapulted the Crew atop the Eastern Conference. Along the way, they won for the first time at Houston and in Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
But those moments were overshadowed by the gloom of a 2-6-1 regular-season finish and a 1-0 loss in a Wild Card match at Colorado that prevented them from advancing to the next round for the third-straight season.
Robert Warzycha completed his third full season in Columbus as head coach with a 13-13-8 record that has him optimistic about the future. But he’s still searching for the parts to complete the project, as he discussed recently with MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you consider this past season a success?
Warzycha: If you look from the beginning to three-quarters through the season, I would say that it was a very successful season. We were competing with a lot of new players against teams that did not change much and we were first in our Conference most of the time. That was very positive and we were going in the right direction.
When the games got on the line and there were was more pressure, we actually didn’t do well. We couldn’t deal with that pressure. We couldn’t deal with the games that were very important. Then after we lost about three in a row, we basically knew it would take time to build it up again. The DC game, the New England game and even the second half against Chicago [in the final three of the regular season], I think they were good games.
I would say it’s a positive season, a successful season, but still I’m missing something [points to his ring finger].
MLSsoccer.com: What were the positives?
Warzycha: At some point, the young guys really stepped up. There were some games they were really, really good. I’m talking about Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram and Rich Balchan. They had some very good games and you can see the potential. Dilly Duka at the end of the season did very well. I don’t think that surprised me. I enjoyed that.
MLSsoccer.com: What disappointed you?
Warzycha: We couldn’t find any central midfielders, to be honest. All year, we tried with these two guys or those two guys but I don’t think we were ever satisfied. That was the biggest challenge this year. There were some good games but overall we were not consistent over there. We went from being good to being average. We did not have the combinations all year because of injuries. Maybe Danny O’Rourke can be one of them and Tony Tchani can be other. Both guys were injured all season.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s needed to be better next season?
Warzycha: It’s like every year. There’s going to be some changes for different reasons. On top of what we have – we may lose one or two players – we have to identify and bring in players who can be starters with this team. Every spot can be improved. We’re going to look at all options.
MLSsoccer.com: Will the changes this offseason be as numerous and impactful as 2010?
Warzycha: No. That’s why last season there was a big turnover and this season we’re not going to try to change too much.
MLSsoccer.com: How close are the Crew to contending for an MLS Cup championship?
Warzycha: We need a few pieces. We need to have people on the team that have double-digit assists. We need to have people on the field that can score from the midfield. That’s the players we need to have. We also need players that we can score some goals from set pieces.