If the narrative of Brian Bliss provisionally setting aside his daily chores as technical director and taking up the role of interim head coach – and winning – sounds familiar, it should.
When Columbus Crew SC owner Andrew Precourt relieved then head coach Robert Warzycha of his duties in the latter stages of the 2013 regular season, Bliss deputized for the remaining eight games. Between Sept. 4-Oct. 27, he posted four losses, but won four matches – two of which came away from home – in the process and nearly helped push Crew SC into the postseason.
After overseeing his first training session as the Chicago Fire’s interim head coach on Monday, with interim assistant and current club Vice President Logan Pause and Head of Scouting Trevor James in tow, Bliss was quick to remind reporters of a befitting memory.
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“I had my first away victory with Columbus in Montreal,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bliss will patrol the technical area yet again and look to do the same as the Fire (7-16-6, 27 points) visit the Montreal Impact (10-11-6, 36 points) for the second time this month, the third and final installment between both sides this season (7 p.m. CT; My50 Chicago).
"It's going to take a good, collective effort," Bliss added. "I don't want to peg myself as a defensive coach, but in the last month and a half we've leaked more goals than we have in the first two-thirds of the year. We need to be more committed, sharper, not only individually but collectively. I think we have enough talent to score goals, but when you're scoring two or three on the road and still not getting results then you've got to start looking at the collective defending. I'm not saying we have to shut somebody out, that would be nice, but I just think overall commitment on the defensive side will help."
In their last six away regular season fixtures alone - which dates back to a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Aug. 7 - the Fire have leaked 13 goals. The team posted at least two goals and led in three of those six (a 3-3 draw with the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 16, a 4-3 loss to the Impact on Sept. 5 and a 3-2 collapse against the New York Red Bulls). Before then, similar issues surfaced in back-to-back draws with New York City FC and Crew SC in May.
With only a month remaining and playoff hopes hanging by a thread, jobs are at stake and there's little room for error with more games left to play away from the confines of Toyota Park.
“In this transitional period, I think we needed that,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said of the idea of team bonding throughout the weeklong stay in Canada. “We’re going to be together on the road for almost a week, and it builds character. We get to know the coaches a little bit more, how they like to operate. … Right now, it’s just about getting something positive. Be it a positive performance or something headed toward the right direction because that’s what we need. We’re just building toward the future and the next year, but it has to start now. We need to identify what we’re lacking and what we need to do to be successful as a team, and then buy into it and go from there.”
Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. CT
Where: Stade Saputo; Montreal, Quebec.
Broadcast: My50 Chicago
NOTE: Due to conflicts with the Cubs' and Blackhawks' schedule, the match will be shown on My50 Chicago with the regular broadcast tandem of Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan. MLS Live blackout will also be lifted to ensure fans will have access to watch.