Columbus picks Sigi Schmid successor

[MLS] More than a dozen years after signing as the Crew's first discovery player, Robert Warzycha is taking over as its fifth head coach.

A press conference is scheduled for Monday to officially announce Warzycha, 45, who has been a Crew assistant coach and interim head coach since 2002. He finished his playing career that season as the team's all-time assist leader (61) and second in games played (160).

Since then he has served as an assistant to Greg Andrulis, whose departure after the 2005 season prompted Crew management to hire Sigi Schmid, who after missing the playoffs entirely his first two years in Columbus led the Crew to its first MLS Cup last November.

While labored negotiations to retain Schmid dragged through the regular season and the playoffs, Crew general manger Mark McCullers steadfastly reiterated his faith that Warzycha, who came to MLS from his native Poland in 1996, could handle the top job.

Once Schmid's contract expired Nov. 30, he was free to conclude negotiations with Seattle, which announced his hiring last week. The Crew obtained some allocation money and $25,000 in cash to release Schmid from a non-compete clause in his contract and open up the job for Warzycha, a former Polish international who began his career with Gornik Zabrze in 1987 and played for English club Everton before playing for PMSC Fordan and Kispest-Honved FC in Hungary.

Warzycha replaced Andrulis midway through the 2005 season. Columbus, which had won the Supporters' Shield in 2004, compiled a 7-6-3 record under Warzycha but missed the playoffs. Schmid retained Warzycha as an assistant when he took over as head coach.

"Robert has all the qualities and all the abilities and he knows the players to be able to continue what we built here in Columbus," Schmid said. "He's been here since day one as a player. He's been an assistant for a long period. He expressed to me he was willing to stay as my assistant for as many years as I was willing to stay here. I really appreciated that."

When the Crew hired Schmid, it broke a tradition of hiring a head coach from within its organization. It had replaced each head coach with one of his assistants in previous successions, from Timo Liekoski to Tom Fitzgerald to Andrulis. In hiring Warzycha, Columbus has reverted to its previous formula.

"He's ready," says Schmid. "He's been a tremendous help here for me and I hope I've been a help to him as he's learned and improved. More so than anything, he's got the experience to do the job."

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