Sunday, January 25, 2009

1/25/09: Dispatch Q&A With New Crew Coach Robert Warzycha


(Pic via: The Columbus Dispatch)

Q&A with new Crew coach Robert Warzycha By Shawn Mitchell:
The Crew will begin defense of its first Major League Soccer championship Wednesday. It will do so under new coach Robert Warzycha, a longtime Crew player and assistant who took over last month when Sigi Schmid left to coach the expansion Seattle Sounders.

When the Crew convenes for its first practice session, it will mark the start of Warzycha's 14th season in Columbus. The veteran of MLS, the English Premier League and the Polish national team sat down with Dispatch reporter Shawn Mitchell to discuss his approach to 2009.

Question : You served as interim coach after Greg Andrulis was fired in 2005. Were there any guarantees made by the Crew after you were passed over for Schmid at the end of that season?

Answer : No guarantee was ever made. I was sad to see Greg go, actually. I knew that when Sigi was a candidate I would not have been able to argue if Sigi was hired. I told (general manager Mark McCullers): "Look at his resume. Look what he's done." I was happy to see him come here.

Q: You're still a bit self-conscious about your English and some wonder how you will communicate on the field. As an assistant, you didn't pipe up a lot in practice. Are you nervous?

A: I only get nervous when I'm trying to be something I'm not or say something in someone else's words. I'm not worried about it on the field. We'll see how it goes, but sometimes all you need to communicate with a player is a look or a gesture.

Q: Sigi had a reputation, deserved or not, for playing conservatively. Your rep from 2005 is that you will attack. Will you coach that way?

A: I do like to take chances and be aggressive. I like to score goals. But I like to stay within a system, too. I want every player to have responsibility. I'm not going to be one of these coaches talking about how he's going to play aggressive, attractive soccer and use three or four forwards, and then two months later they're not doing it.

Q: You benched Frankie Hejduk in 2005. He's now the captain. How will you handle your personnel?

A: I always say the player makes the decision on whether he is going to play or not. If a player, no matter who it is, is not playing well, I won't hesitate to go with the younger guy or someone who has shown they deserve a chance.

Q: This team had a curious ability to will itself to win last season, and you said when Chicago scored first in the Eastern Conference final that it was almost a relief. After winning a championship, do you expect that tenacity to drop off because the mountaintop has been reached?

A: No. We're going to keep working. We gave up too many goals in the first 15 minutes. We have to do a better job of concentrating from the first minute. There is no reason to chase the game. We won a lot of games when we were behind, but we put ourselves in that situation.

Q: Expectations are high, obviously. What are yours?

A: Last year ... it was perfect -- most points and the MLS Cup. A lot of people think we should be able to easily win another championship. It won't be easy. But we are capable, yes.

Q: You will compete in the Champions League and will have a lot of players vying for time with their national teams. Depth will be important, and your younger, inexperienced players will be expected to improve. Do you like where the club is heading into preseason?

A: We had the best bench in the league last year. Guys like (Emmanuel) Ekpo and Pat Noonan could start for any team in the league. Andy Iro -- I get calls from other teams inquiring about him all the time. Jason Garey could play for anybody. That bench is the reason we won. But those guys at No. 20, 21, 22 -- they're going to have to get better because they're going to be called upon. I have no problem with national team stuff. Some coaches get upset -- "they're taking all my players." I want them to take my players because it shows we are doing well.

Q: Guillermo Barros Schelotto will be a year older. Now that he won a championship here and has a designated player contract, is there any reason to expect a drop-off?

A: I think for him it's a matter of pride. He won 18 championships, I think, through his career. After the first or second, you could say, "What's the point?" Money is always important, but for a player like him, it doesn't matter as much. He wants to win. He knows this thing is bigger than him.

Q: Sigi wasn't thrilled with the idea of continuing to practice at the Obetz facility, and I don't think we're going to see a new practice facility in the near future. Are you OK with that?

A: The biggest concern is not having a big indoor facility here in Columbus. We're going to start on Monday at SuperKick, and we're happy that they are letting us use that facility, but the biggest field is 72 feet by 42 feet. We would love to be able to play 11-on-11 on a full-sized field. I know the club is doing the best it can to build a new facility. With the economy right now, it's going to be tough.

Q: The growth of the Nordecke, a championship team and only a modest rise in ticket prices indicate the atmosphere in Crew Stadium could be better than ever. How much does that matter?

A: The front office worked hard to bring all those guys together (in the Nordecke). The first few games, there weren't too many people. But it grew and grew and grew. The best thing is they wrote their songs and they're singing. They're organized. When they show highlights of our games, it looks like a European game, the game that we love. In the playoffs, especially against Chicago, I don't think anybody in that stadium thought we were going to be leaving that field losing. I was watching those people, and I was not even worried about the end of the game. We knew we were going to win.

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