The Waylon Francis signing rumors brought the Crew's light staffing into relief. The team confirmed that Brian Bliss was heading to Costa Rica has been doing two jobs since taking over has interim head coach. He leads the team on the field and builds it as the Technical Director. His role as coach has put him in the spotlight, but he has spent the last five years scouting and signing players. One of those jobs is a full time proposition, but splitting between the two stretches Bliss and the Crew thin.
The Team Sheet - Bliss talked about his desire to coach. He's heavily invested in getting results right now. The Crew are 6-2-0 with him as the coach. He's entrusted Matt Lampson, Tyson Wahl, and Agustin Viana with bigger roles on the field. He's also tried to get the team to play with a higher tempo. Fans can see him on the sideline, gesturing wildly and getting the team set. The players talk about his style in interviews with reporters. Everyone knows what the coach does. He's the face of the front office, setting the lineup, and barking orders from the sideline.
Next Year's Roster - Here is where the job become a little more mysterious. The technical director has meant looking ahead to fill out the 2014 team sheet. In the past both Robert Warzycha and Bliss took scouting trips. These are the duties that make the paper. Bliss took a trip to Costa Rica last weekend to scout. He didn't talk about who he was there to watch, but having a target list should mean that the team has assessed the roster.
Assessing the roster requires that the technical staff have an understanding of where the team needs to improve. Currently that is Bliss with input from assistant Mike Lapper. A new head coach will likely shift those assessments.
A prime example would be new Manchester United manager David Moyes. When he managed Everton, Moyes had a room filled with white boards with players ranked by over a dozen criteria. This included his team and targets across the world. New Everton manager Roberto Martinez quickly brought in reinforcements that likely didn't match the board. Moyes likely took his system with him, but he has to build that information again at a new club.
With a now slimmer scouting staff, the Crew will be heading into the offseason under uncertain direction and an perhaps an information gap.
The Desk Job - Bliss worked extensively with the league office in the past on contracts. In a salary capped league, every contract can become crippling with the wrong terms or even length. The Crew have struggled with getting value out of the roster. Dominic Oduro and Josh Williams have provided the most impact from smaller paychecks, but other signings haven't been as successful. Matias Sanchez has disappeared from the game day roster and makes nearly $230k. Jairo Arrieta has three goals and also is over the $200k mark.
MLS is in a roster freeze so the team hasn't had to work on any contracts, but Bliss plays a key role in managing the team's salary budget and planning future signings.
With the playoffs unlikely, the team's offseason will start before Halloween. That means scouting, budgeting, and roster planning will have to be in high gear as the Crew look to get back to winning ways. The team will have to have made decisions on who to keep and who to let go. Replacements will have to be lined up then signed. Unlike the quiet post MLS offseason, this one will be important in charting the direction for the franchise. Right now that's in the hands of a very busy Brian Bliss.