OBETZ, Ohio – The last time a Warzycha was on the field wearing No. 19 for the Columbus Crew, Robert Warzycha ended his playing career by making a goal-line clearance on a shot from LA's Alejandro Moreno, preserving a 1-0 victory in the final of the 2002 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
With Wednesday's signing of his son, free agent midfielder Konrad (above, left), there's a chance at some point this season that another Warzycha will enter the Crew's player register. What is already known is that he will don the same number as his father, who's entering his fifth full season as head coach of Columbus.
"Those are big shoes to fill," Robert Warzycha joked.
The younger Warzycha joined the team as a trialist after two seasons with Sporting Kansas City. He was a first team All-Big Ten selection his senior year at Ohio State and as a freshman was a teammate of former SKC, now Wigan Athletic midfielder Roger Espinoza on the team that reached the College Cup final in 2007.
Konrad's pro career was stymied in 2011 because of a knee surgery that sidelined him for most of his rookie season, and he didn't fare much better in 2012, making just one appearance for one minute for Kansas City last year.
Now, the Warzychas join the Bob and Michael Bradley as the second father-son, coach-player tandem in MLS history. Bob coached 17-year-old Michael with the MetroStars in 2004 and '05 before both went their separate ways at the club level.
However, Robert was fairly quick to point out the differences in the two duos' situations.
"Michael was younger," he said to MLSsoccer.com. "Konrad's 24, a little bit more mature. It's much tougher to coach your kid when he's a teenager or young."
As for critics who think nepotism is behind Konrad's selection to the Crew, the younger Warzycha said he is used to those questioning his ability.
"Even in high school, people were saying I was getting the recognition because of my last name," he said to MLSsoccer.com. "People can say what they want. I use it as motivation."
However, he does feel more comfortable joining Columbus after the route he took.
"Coming out of college I felt it would have been a little awkward if I had a chance to play for the Crew," he said. "But now that I've got two years in the league it's not weird at all. I'm treating it as a professional relationship. It's coach-player, not father-son."
Defender Chad Marshall told MLSsoccer.com that Warzycha has earned his teammates' trust and respect through summer training sessions with the Crew back when he was at Ohio State.
"Konrad's a good pro. He's approaching it that way," Marshall said. "We know the kind of guy he is. We know he's a good player when he's healthy. He'll add to our team."
Perhaps the happiest member of the Warzycha family, though, is Konrad's mother and Robert's wife, Eliza.
"She used to always debate who she was going to cheer for when Kansas City played the Crew," Konrad said. "Now, she said she can get rid of all the Kansas City stuff and stick to her heart with her first team, which is the Crew."