Brian Bliss has been down this path before.
As he did in Kansas City in 2006 and in Columbus seven years later, Bliss – a former United States international and MLS defender – will step out of his wonted technical director role and into the technical area once again as the Chicago Fire look to salvage an inkling of hope – and points – in the few remaining regular season matches.
Tasked with domestic and international scouting, negotiating contracts and supervising cap management for six years as the Crew’s first-ever technical director, Bliss has upheld those same responsibilities since being recruited by Frank Yallop shortly after his hiring in 2013.
But following the announcement of drastic coaching changes over the weekend – which signaled the departure of Yallop, and assistant coaches Marc Bircham and Clint Mathis, and the introduction of General Manager Nelson Rodríguez – Bliss was phoned by club owner Andrew Hauptman on Sunday and presented with the job of leading the Fire into the final stretch on an interim basis, alongside fellow interim assistant and current Vice President Logan Pause.
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“I’m just looking to get a little bit more direction, a little bit more stability, and focus on these next five games, and get a style and an atmosphere generated that can hopefully generate some wins,” Bliss said after training on Monday. “There’s no magic wand at this point, but there’s a formula to how I work and I believe it will breed some success. However, it’ll take a little bit of time to get it indoctrinated and get us going in the right direction.”
That formula will have to wait until Wednesday to be critiqued – the Fire march into Montreal to face the Impact at Stade Saputo – but the 49-year-old made no mistake in making his presence felt during his first training session. Bliss oversaw practice in its entirety, barked out his orders, offered constructive criticism to players and even allowed Pause to turn back the clock and join in the team’s full-sided scrimmage.
“I’m more hands-on,” Bliss said of his proactive approach. “I like to get in the middle of it. I think they need to hear my voice to be able to play as an extension of how I want them to play. That’s how I work.”
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Though he remained noncommittal in regard to the potential of making the move from interim to full-time, Bliss was receptive to idea. Whether results in the next month warrant Hauptman and Rodríguez to put the opportunity on the table is another story.
“I’m here to try to help the club move forward in these next five games,” Bliss added. “If they think that I’m doing a good enough job and want to talk about a future role in this position, I’m open to it. I’ve always said that I’m comfortable in either role, coaching or as a technical director.
“I’ve spent more time over my career in a locker room and on a field than I have in an office, and I still think that’s where my skillset lies. However, I’m not averse to doing what I’ve been doing the last five or eight years. … In the end, it’s up to them, what they see and believe and feel that I’m capable of doing.”