The Columbus Crew announced on Monday that the club has parted ways with head coach Robert Warzycha, and technical director Brian Bliss will take charge of the club on an interim basis.
Warzycha, in his fifth year in charge, led the Crew to an 8-13-5 record this season and they currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 29 points, eight behind the New England Revolution for the final playoff spot.
"This is a difficult decision that has not been taken lightly," said Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers. "Robert has been a loyal and dedicated member of this organization for 18 years. He will always be part of the Crew family, and he deserves our respect and acknowledgement for the sacrifices he has made, his numerous accomplishments and all that he has contributed to this club, both as a player and a coach.
"Following a thorough evaluation of the club with (chairman) Anthony [Precourt], we determined that Robert's contract would not be extended beyond 2013," McCullers added. "Rather than wait until the end of the season, we felt that the best interests of the club and Robert would be served by making this change now. We believe our team can still accomplish more this season and that a change in coaching leadership under Brian would be a motivating factor for the club."
Warzycha's tenure comes to an end with a regular season record of 70-59-41, which tied him with Tom Fitzgerald for the most regular season victories as the Crew's head coach.
After taking over on an interim basis in 2005 following the dismissal of Greg Andrulis, Warzycha went 7-6-3 to finish that campaign. Sigi Schmid took the reins from Warzycha for three seasons from 2006-2008, while Warzycha served as an assistant coach en route to the club's first MLS Cup championship in 2008.
Warzycha then became head coach in 2009 after Schmid left for Seattle and led the club to several notable titles. Under Warzycha's watch, Columbus won the 2009 Supporters' Shield, reached the 2010 U.S. Open Cup final and claimed Trillium Cup titles in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 in the club's derby rivalry with Toronto FC.
"I have been intently following this team since mid-April when we decided to explore the possibility of acquiring the Crew," said Precourt. "When I became the club's new chairman, I said that I would take the necessary time to be thoughtful and evaluate where we needed to make changes. When we came to the conclusion that we were not going to retain Robert beyond this season, it was apparent that we needed to make this change now so that we can refocus the club around Brian's leadership for the remainder of this season, as well as get the process started on finding a new head coach."
Bliss began his coaching career in 1999 and helped the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) capture the 2000 Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup, along with a 2004 Open Cup title.
Bliss joined the Crew in 2008 during the team's MLS Cup-winning campaign. Since then he has overseen all player personnel matters, player assessment and domestic and international scouting.
"It is with mixed emotions that I accept this position," Bliss remarked. "Robert is a true professional and a close friend, and I will personally miss working with him.
Sometimes in these situations a fresh perspective and a new voice are needed. I'm confident in our players and the talent on our roster. I know these guys have a lot of fight in them, and they have the desire to continue battling and finish strong. Our fans deserve to see the best out of this team, and I plan to do whats necessary to make that happen."