Robert Warzycha took over the Crew’s coaching duties before the 2009 season following Sigi Schmid’s departure to the expansion Seattle Sounders. In his last year as Crew manager, Schmid lead the team to dominant performances in both league play and the postseason, resulting in two more trophies being added to the cabinet in Columbus: the 2008 Supporters’ Shield and the 2008 MLS Cup.
Warzycha inherited the best team in the league. His job was simple. The blueprint had already been laid before him. He had seen the steps necessary to win from his assistant coaching position under Schmid. In 2009, Warzycha took Schmid’s team, won the 2009 Supporters’ Shield, and helped them advance to the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarterfinals.
However, all was not good. Columbus lost their opening game of the U.S. Open Cup to the second-division Rochester Rhinos on penalty kicks.
In the playoffs, the Crew faced Real Salt Lake, who had just made the cut on the last day of the regular season. The first game in Sandy, Utah, was a disaster. Warzycha sat the team’s leading scorer and hands down best Crew player of all time, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, for no apparent reason. After also losing the home leg 3-2, the Crew were shockingly knocked out in the first round. Questions concerning Warzycha’s coaching abilities started to surface.
The following season opened with an impressive showing against Toluca in the CCL quarterfinals, but the Crew lost by a combined score of 5-4 over the two-leg series.
A successful run in the U.S. Open Cup lead Columbus to the final in Seattle against the Sounders. Despite going up 1-0, Columbus ultimately lost, 2-1.
The Crew had qualified for the CCL once more because of their 2009 Supporters’ Shield win. They had a successful group stage and, again, advanced to the quarterfinals.
On the other hand, the regular season was so-so. The team finished fifth overall in MLS and went out at home in the first round of the playoffs to the Colorado Rapids on penalty kicks.
Enter Black Monday. In a single November day, Columbus cut ties with their four of their most recognizable players, including former league and MLS Cup MVP, Guillermo Barros Schelotto; captain, Frankie Hejduk; the longest-tenured Crew player, Duncan Oughton; and the regular starting left-back, Gino Padula. Also traded were midfielder cog Brian Carroll and energetic forward Steven Lenhart.
2011 began where right where 2009 ended: with a home-and-home series against Real Salt Lake. This time, it was for a spot in the CCL semifinals. Unfortunately, the Crew lost 4-1 on aggregate.
Their U.S. Open Cup run was nonexistent, as they lost at home in the first round to the third-division Richmond Kickers, 2-1.
The regular season was not much better. They snuck into the playoffs as the ninth of ten teams admitted. Columbus was knocked out in the first round for the third time in a row, once again losing to the Colorado Rapids.
Another first round exit in the U.S. Open Cup to the third-division Dayton Dutch Lions marred the start of the Crew’s current campaign. Columbus lost at home to the, at the time, last place team in the USL Pro Division, 2-1.
Mid-season additions of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain saved the team halfway through the year, pulling them into playoff position. However, another late swoon has seen the team drop out of the race. The season came to a significant end last night. The Crew lost to D.C. United 3-2, rendering them mathematically out of the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
From the 2008 team that Warzycha received, only five players remain. This is truly his team. It is no longer Sigi Schmid’s. Warzycha has had four years to build his desired team with his desired formation. He has had four years to mold the style of play.
The positive results? The Supporters’ Shield the first year, the CCL quarterfinal appearances, and the run to the 2010 U.S. Open Cup final.
The negative results? A declining league position every year, being knocked out in the first game of the U.S. Open Cup three years out of four to lower-division sides, and never making it past the first round of the playoffs. Now, the Columbus Crew are not even in the postseason.
Do remember Robert Warzycha as a great player. Remember his free kicks, his assists. Remember the Polish Rifle. His coaching tenure has not been great but, still, remember his steadfast dedication to this club.
I love this team too much to continue to watch them being driven into the ground. Players have publicly expressed their angst. How much longer is the organization going to let this happen?
The math is easy. The negatives far outweigh the positives. The time has come.
Sack Robert Warzycha.