COLUMBUS, Ohio – After nearly a month at the helm of the Columbus Crew, interim head Coach Brian Bliss is getting through to his players.
The club has won four of its last five matches, including the first three-match win streak of the season, and the team – especially its offense – has rapidly gelled over the course of that stretch. After Sunday's 4-2 win at FC Dallas, players mentioned that they were on the same page with Bliss, and clearly seemed pleased with his leadership.
Bliss was quick to deny sole responsibility for the turnaround, and credited the players' confidence that has developed late in the season.
“The guys have cobbled together a nice stretch here,” Bliss told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “They feel good about themselves. It's just kind of the way I do business or the way I coach maybe ... I don't think I'm doing anything special, it's just the way I do it. I don't care if I’m coaching the [US] U-20s or our own U-20 team. It's just how I do it.”
Bliss put emphasis on a quick, rapidly-changing practice regimen that may have taken players a few weeks to buy into. But a month later, he says, the biggest difference he's seen from the team is in their ability to work hard in training.
“The rhythm of how we train, where there's shorter activity but higher intensity [has been better]. We don't have to continue to remind the guys that you have to be tuned in for the entire practice,” he said. “You have to play at game speed in training for it to happen on Saturdays. We're having to remind the guys less and less over time, so it's becoming more natural for them to train at this intensity level.”
Bliss said that the goals in Sunday's win highlighted his on-field philosophies of upping the team's speed of play and “getting to the goal quicker” with the ball.
“Two if not three of those goals were textbook in terms of what we've been thinking about and how we've been training,” he said. “It's a little bit of high-risk, high-reward kind of play.”
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Despite the risk involved in Bliss's style of play, he says that he would have been using the same strategy even if the team weren't in a do-or-die position as they try to make the playoffs.
“It's predicated on defending wherever the ball is. That wouldn't change whether it was game 10 or 28,” he said. “Maybe from first minute to last minute, the tempo we're playing at would be difficult to continue over a 34-game stretch. In terms of what we expect from the guys in their certain positions, nothing would change.”