As the Crew prepares for the offseason before the 2013 campaign, TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett sat down with Head Coach Robert Warzycha for this exclusive two-part interview refelcting on the 2012 season:
Cody Sharrett: Robert, you finished 2012 with your highest win total as a Head Coach. However, it wasn't enough in a highly contested Eastern Conference to make the playoffs. Despite that disappointment, what positives can you take from this past season and what does the team need to work on in the offseason?
Robert Warzycha: To be honest, I think we played better than in previous years away from home. Actually, we had a tough schedule going to Seattle, going to San Jose and going to Portland. We did well in those games, and even the games in the end against New York, D.C. and Chicago we were leading and we scored the first goal. That's what we talked about last year, just improving the first 15 minutes, scoring the goals first and going from there. Obviously, we gave up the leads in the last three [road] games right away. That's what we have to work on and think about for next season. A lot of young players got their feet wet this year. Obviously the way we play, I think, is very promising for next season. The addition of the new guys, especially in front of the net that can score goals, make us feel good. We just need to tighten the formation.
CS: You talked about the success away from home, but it was also another successful season at Crew Stadium. Over the last four years, only Real Salt Lake has a better home record. What has made Crew Stadium such a fortress in your time as Head Coach?
RW: The atmosphere is number one. We have good support from everybody. Also, the players handle the pressure well. They do well on the field here in Columbus, because they feel the support. Obviously, nobody wants to disappoint the crowd or disappoint themselves. We have confidence here. We were 11-3-3 [in 2012], that's a pretty good record.
CS: SInce being named Head Coach before the 2009 season, you are fourth in MLS wins behind Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid and Jason Kreis. What's it like to sustain that type of success over that period of time?
RW: To be honest, I measure success by winning championships. Obviously it's good to win games, but we have to win the important ones.
CS: Early in the season, it was obvious the Crew needed a boost in the attack. You got that boost with the additions of Federico Higuaín and Jairo Arrieta midseason. Having those guys for a full year in 2013, do you feel it makes the Crew a top competitor in the Eastern Conference?
RW: It's always nice to have guys that score goals. With Arrieta and Higuaín, we have a good feeling going into next season. I said probably 10 games before the end of the season that if we're going to give up two goals each game, we're not going to the playoffs even with having 52 points. So we have to make sure we're defending well as a team and then obviously attacking well as a team also.
CS: Some may compare this season to the 2007 campaign when the club acquired Guillermo Barros Schelotto midseason. Do you see those similarities heading into next year building around Higuaín and Arrieta?
RW: Yeah, absolutlely. I think they are very good players. As long as they stay healthy, we're going to be good.
Part II of TheCrew.com's interview with Robert Warzycha will be posted on November 8.