BRIDGEVIEW, Ill.—Brian Bliss is hoping to bring stability, focus and some badly needed wins to the Chicago Fire.
The club's technical director steps in as interim head coach for the final five games of the season, following Sunday's sacking of second-year head coach Frank Yallop by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. The Fire, last in the Eastern Conference and likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, were 13-26-24 in nearly two full seasons under Yallop, compiling just 63 points in 63 games.
Fire vice president Logan Pause will serve as assistant to the former Columbus Crew SC technical director – who served as Columbus’ interim head coach for the final eight games of the 2013 season following Robert Warzycha’s firing. Bliss is intent on fostering a winning atmosphere as quickly as possible.
“Obviously you’re looking to stabilize," said Bliss, to reporters at Toyota Park on Monday. "It was the same thing in Columbus, I’ve been in this position before.
"I’m just looking to get a little bit more direction, a little more stability, [to] try to focus on the next five games and getting a way, a style and an atmosphere generated that can hopefully project some wins. There’s no magic wand at this point, but there’s a formula to how I work and I believe it will breed some success.”
Bliss and Pause led their first training session on Monday, and were both heavily involved as the team prepared for Wednesday’s trip to Montreal. Bliss proved vocal as he cajoled and prompted players throughout, a style he hopes will reap immediate rewards for the group.
“I’m more hands on,” Bliss said. “I like to get right in the middle of it. I think they need to hear my voice to be able to play as an extension of how I want them to play. That’s just my style and how I coach, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first or the last day on the job, that’s how I work.”
Veteran winger Patrick Nyarko has seen four head coaches come and go in eight seasons with the Fire. The Ghanaian admitted on Monday that the players must take their share of the blame for the poor results this season.
“It’s a transitional period, where everyone feels sorry for themselves and feels like they could have done a little bit more for things to be stabilized,” Nyarko said. “But it happens, I’ve been through it a few times and obviously you just have to look forward and take the positives out of it.
"Obviously we’re not happy that someone has to lose their job and I personally think, as players, we are as much to blame as the staff. But in this business someone has to take that responsibility and unfortunately the staff are the leaders and they have to take that.”
The players were informed of Yallop’s dismissal by phone calls from Bliss and Pause before news officially broke Sunday afternoon. They’re ready to get to work under Bliss and Pause, whom they believe will bring a quicker pace.
“Blissy is very detail oriented, very structured,” said veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch. “He has a passion for the game, he wants to play. It’s going to be a bit more up tempo game with him, but he’s honest as well.
"Good or bad, he’s going to be honest with every player and that’s something I like with my coach. Whether you like what he’s telling you or not, as long as he’s honest with you, you can respect that. I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Bliss is looking forward to working alongside incoming general manager Nelson Rodriguez, whom he believes can steady the Fire and restore the club to its past glories, lauding Rodriguez's knowledge of league and club business operations.
“He is very professional, he’s very thoughtful, he’s very detail oriented and he’s committed," Bliss said. "That’s what you need: guys who are willing to roll up their sleeves, plus he’s got the knowledge.
"I’ve known Nelson for 15, 18, 20 years probably, and we have a lot of similar ideas about the game, about what a team looks and feels like and what a coaching role looks like. Hopefully, that serves him well and serves me well but we’ll cross that bridge later.”
Bliss knows a good run of results could provide Rodriguez enough information to allow him to succeed Yallop on a full-time basis. But for now, he's limiting his ambitions to coaching the remaining schedule.
“It’s at the owner’s discretion," Bliss said. "I’m here to try to help the club and move us forward in these next five games. If they think that I’m doing a good enough job and if they want to talk about a future role in this position I’m open to it. I’ve always said that I’m comfortable in either role, coaching or as a technical director. I’ve spent more time over my career in the locker room and on a field than I have in an office and I still think that’s where my skill set lies.
"However, I’m not averse to doing what I’ve been doing the last five or eight years between here and Columbus in terms of identifying players, and contracts, cap management and all that. But in the end, it’s up to the owner, what he sees and believes and feels that I’m capable of doing.”