Earlier in the week, TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett sat down with Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha to discuss the 2012 season and look ahead to 2013. Here is Part II of our exclusive interview:
CLICK HERE for Part I.
Cody Sharrett: Chad Marshall and Eddie Gaven are entering their tenth and eighth seasons, respectively, with the Crew. They have been regular starters throughout their time in Columbus. In a League that sees 30 percent roster turnover each year, what is like to have that continuity in your starting XI?
Robert Warzycha: Those guys are the core of this team. It's good to have them. They give us some confidence and obviously they're both good players.
CS: Eddie just finished his tenth season in MLS, but is only 26. He's coming off a career-high of nine goals in 2012, do you feel he's entering his prime?
RW: I think so. Obviously, I think he has better players around him. I think he has players that can help him with his game. And obviously, I think he's matured more. He's seeing more things on the field and he proved this year that he can score a lot of goals.
CS: You hate to deal injuries to your veterans, but Andy Gruenebaum goes from being your number two to a legitimate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year candidate in William Hesmer's absence. What did Andy mean to this team in 2012?
RW: It's very tough, but it was a positive also that having Will injured for so long, we had someone to step-up. We had someone who could step-up and play well. Andy did that. He played well this year.
CS: You mentioned young players stepping-up and contributing earlier. Whether it's Josh Williams, Ethan Finlay, Aaron Schoenfeld, Kevan George, or Ben Speas starting in the final match. How do you feel those guys performed this year, and how are you raising your expectations next season?
RW: I think it's good that they got their feet wet this year. I think some of them did better, some of them did okay. I think they found out how much pressure is in the game when you have to play and you have to perform. It's good for them, because this season gave them a lot of experience. I'm looking forward to next year. Winning the Reserve League two years in a row, I think it says everything about their performance and how serious they take playing.
CS: Shifting to offseason focus, you've stated that you can't be a playoff team if you give up two goals each game. You had a lot of injuries in the backline, how can it be improved ahead of 2013?
RW: We had a lot of injuries between Chad [Marshall], [Julius] James and [Carlos] Mendes. They were injured a lot....They missed too many games for me and for the team. They've got to stay healthy. The other thing is, we have to think about maybe bringing in somebody else because competition is always good.
CS: What areas of the game are you looking to improve this offseason?
RW: We have to understand the game a little bit better and then make better decisions on the field. We have a good team. We just needed one point to get in the playoffs. We have to be thinking about that from the first game of the season.
CS: Some have criticized the late season form of this team, even though you finished 3-3-1 in your last seven matches. How can you improve that going forward to boost your late season record?
RW: We have to win important games. Important games are games like the one against D.C.. I think we won five of our last six games at home, which is a very good record. We did what we could on the road. We were leading three times against Chicago, New York, and D.C.. We did some good things, we just have to stick together and make sure we win at least one of those games.