Faces of First Kick: Robert Warzycha
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Inside the mind of Crew head coach Robert Warzycha

OBETZ, Ohio – The knots in Robert Warzycha’s stomach have not gone away.

There are some things that have not changed about his job as Columbus Crew manager ever since taking over in 2009.

“Every single coach will tell you they are always thinking about the team,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com. “You wake up every single night and think about your lineup. Nothing’s changed. They say don’t bring your work home, but that’s not possible.”

The homework this week is preparation for the home opener against Montreal on Saturday. The Crew are coming off a 2-0 defeat at Colorado in the season opener on March 10, but the Polish-born Warzycha is confident he has the team headed in the right direction.

He would have preferred not to start rookie Kirk Urso and bring on Ethan Finlay in the 12th minute against the Rapids, but the offseason departures of midfielders Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo and injuries have accelerated the youth movement that began with a massive purge after the 2010 season.

“With the additions we made last year and this year and obviously we have more to come, this team is shaping up,” Warzycha said.

The 48-year-old manager, who signed a multi-year extension on Sept. 1 last year, is 47-35-29 in the regular season (including a 7-6-3 record as interim head coach for the second half of the 2005 season) with a Supporters’ Shield to his credit in 2009.

He’s guided the Crew to the MLS Cup Playoffs the past three seasons but the club has yet to win a series with him at the helm. That’s the cross he has to bear following in the footsteps of Sigi Schmid.

Warzycha was Schmid’s assistant when the Crew won their only MLS Cup in 2008 and he ascended to head coach when Schmid departed for Seattle Sounders FC.

“I’m still learning,” Warzycha said. “Every day brings something new. The games are always exciting. I’m still mad if we lose."

But he doesn’t show it as much in public anymore, according to assistant coach Mike Lapper.

“The one thing I’ve seen is he really tries to keep a cool head on the bench on game days,” Lapper said. “He’s very intense [at practice], but game days he’s learned that not everything’s going to go right and not everything is going to go as you had drawn up on that chalkboard.

“Before, I know he would really get upset with the referees and maybe that would detract him from what’s more important – that’s the team,” added Lapper. “I see him really staying more focused on the players and what he needs to have the guys do for a positive outcome.”

Warzycha agrees he’s calmer and perhaps that new demeanor is also helping him in other parts of the job.

“It’s probably the way you talk to players and approaching them,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot and maybe over the years you find the best way to get the best from them.”

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