Crew Cuts: Family affair

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When the Crew promoted the club's all-time assists leader Robert Warzycha to head coach and hired former defensive stalwart Ricardo Iribarren as an assistant, the club continued a trend that's been building for more than half a decade.

The Crew coaching staff is full of former Crew players.

It's not just Warzycha and Iribarren. Former defender Mike Lapper is a Crew assistant too, and Brian Bliss, a member of the original roster in 1996, is the club's technical director.

The pattern is enough to suggest that President and GM Mark McCullers is actively seeking to keep familiar faces in the fold.

"I wouldn't say that it's been a strategy," McCullers said, cracking a smile, at the team's media day last week. Yet he sees some advantages in employing coaches who have worn the Black and Gold.

"They've seen it from a player's perspective," McCullers said. "They have credibility because they've been there."

Though Warzycha is happy to coach alongside so many former Crew players, he's not sure he buys the argument that just because someone was successful on the pitch, they'll duplicate that success on the sidelines.

"You see it around the world," Warzycha said. "Big stars can't get over the hump."

Iribarren, whose stellar bicycle kick goal was a highlight of the Crew's Ohio Stadium era, also doesn't think his previous connection presents much of an advantage. He's pleased to return to Columbus, though.

"It's an honor for me to be back here," he said.

Hey! Duck!

Defender Frankie Hejduk, the Crew's captain and its heart, missed last week's home opener to play in the United States' World Cup qualifier in El Salvador.

The Crew's loss was America's gain, as Hejduk assisted on one goal and scored another to lift the Yanks out of a 2-0 hole and secure a precious point in the final qualifying round.

At press time, Hejduk was slated to appear in Wednesday's qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Nashville. It was unclear whether he would be able to join the Crew for Thursday's match in Salt Lake City.

What's next for the Crew?

After a disappointing home opener that found a depleted Crew surrendering its 1-0 lead in a most embarrassing fashion - an own goal - Columbus heads west this weekend for a two-game road trip.

Tonight they face last year's Western Conference finalists Real Salt Lake at the acclaimed new Rio Tinto Stadium. Sunday, they travel to L.A. to face the always-feisty Chivas USA.

Thanks to injuries, national team call-ups and a schedule that starts with three out of four on the road, Columbus might emerge from this weekend winless after four games. They'll seek to avoid that fate by toppling teams that have long since shed their 2005 "expansion" status.

Columbus Crew at Real Salt Lake

9 p.m. Thursday, April 2


Columbus Crew at Chivas USA

8 p.m. Sunday, April 5


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