Labor Day marked the end of Robert Warzycha's tenure as the head coach of the Columbus Crew, with Crew technical director Brian Bliss stepping into the job on an interim basis.
For the Houston Dynamo, who take on the Crew in Bliss’ debut, the change brings a bevy of new wrinkles.
With Bliss at the helm, new tactics, new personnel and possibly a new fire may lift a Columbus team that’s struggled to keep up in the Eastern Conference.
To combat the unknown, the Dynamo are heading into Wednesday night's highly important road game (6:30 p.m. CT; CSN Houston, Mega TV) looking to focus on the only thing they can control: themselves.
“It’s weird when that happens,” said midfielder Adam Moffat, who played for the Crew under Warzycha and his predecessor, Sigi Schmid, from 2007-10. “You don’t know what it’s like beforehand. It’s kind of a fresh opportunity for the boys. I know Brian. When it is the first time someone’s taken control, there’s a few question marks.
“We know what we have to do. It’ll be interesting but we’ll prepare normally.”
While Houston won’t know what Bliss has in store for them, it helps the Dynamo that they have a healthy knowledge of the Crew’s personnel. The two clubs have already matched up twice this season, with Houston notching a win at home and a draw on the road. That familiarity will play in Houston’s favor as they prepare for Columbus.
“The personnel hasn’t changed, other than the person picking the team,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “You have to focus on the other team so you can go back and look at the previous lineup there they had against Seattle [last weekend]. By this time you know each other’s personnel pretty well.”
One player the Dynamo know for sure will not be in the lineup is Federico Higuain. The Argentine is serving the back end of a two-game suspension and will not suit up against Houston.
The absence of Higuain and firing of Warzycha adds intrigue to an already tense and important contest for the Orange, who are looking to jump on a wounded opponent early in a game that could present a playoff-type atmosphere.
“A new coach could come in and say, 'We want to do things completely different,' so you can’t just prepare from the past. Really we just worry about what we can control,” said defender Bobby Boswell. “You always look at the other team a little bit but you control what you can control. For me, that’s how we play and go about our business.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.