1997 Club by Club
The 1997 season was one of unprecedented success for the Kansas City Wizards. With a regular season mark of 21-11, the Wizards (along with Eastern Conference counterpart D.C. United) set a Major League Soccer record for most wins in a season.
The regular season also saw Kansas City sit atop first place for a dominating 26 of 28 weeks. During one stretch in the middle of the season, the Wizards won a remarkable 11 of 13 games, including a league-best seven in a row.
The Wizards shocking defeat, 2-0 in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the Colorado Rapids does not dimish from the team's regular season success.
From the beginning of the season, the Wizards ran away from the pack and never looked back. On the strength of their 13-3 record against Western Conference foes, Kansas City clinched a playoff berth sooner than any other MLS team on August 28.
The season started with a bang, as forward Mo Johnston hooked a free kick by the San Jose Clash goalkeeper in the 13th minute, leading the club to a 3-2 shootout victory in the home opener on Mar. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium. From there, the Wizards went on to establish themselves as arguably the best team in Major League Soccer.
When opposing teams prepare for the Kansas City Wizards, there's one thing that always comes to mind: Preki. What more can you say about his incredible 1997 season.
As captain of the team, the midfielder with the deadly left foot led the Wizards offense in tallying 12 goals and 17 assists on his way to winning a host of awards including, Honda Most Valuable Player, Budweiser Scoring Champion & Wizards MVP Preki has become the all-time leading scorer in MLS history with a grand total of 30 goals and 30 assists for a whopping 90 points in 59 games.
The Kansas City Wizards attacking style of play in 1997 only strengthened their reputation as an "offensive powerhouse," a tag the team was given at the beginning of the inaugural season. With 57 goals (second in MLS) in 1997, Kansas City came close to matching their impressive goal total of 61 in 1996.
In 1996, the Wizards gave up a league-worst 63 goals, or almost two goals a game. In the off-season, the Wizards went out and acquired the services of Richard Gough from Glasgow Rangers and Steve Pittman from the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Those additions and the defensive nucleus of Sean Bowers and Uche Okafor, helped overcome pre-season, year-ending injuries to 1996 defensive starters Scott Uderitz and Diego Guti.
The defense improved greatly in 1997, helping the Wizards hold opponents to just 51 goals, 12 fewer than 1996.