1998 Club by Club
Expectations of an MLS Championship in the 1998 season for the Kansas City Wizards proved to be way off the mark, as the Wizards slumped after an impressive start to life in MLS. After their strong run to the Western conference final in 1997, much hype surrounded the Wizards side. But the team finished with a 12-20 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in team history. However, Kansas City improved its defense from the last two seasons, letting in just 50 goals however that was not enough to overcome the Wizards struggle to score goals.
KC’s usual fluid attacking spark was missing as they scored just 45 times, compared to their combined total of 118 goals in their first two years of existence. Their home record of 10-6 was admirable but in truth the main reason for the Wizards struggles was their road form, securing just two wins out of 16 to rank last in the MLS.
However one bright spot for the franchise was their win over the Colorado Rapids, as temperatures soared to over 103 degrees at kickoff. Kansas City, in the thick of the playoff race, fell behind 1-0 early. Preki tied the score 1-1 with a penalty kick midway through the first half. The second half belonged to the Wizards as they out-hustled the Rapids for every ball. Midfielder Ryan Tinsley battled through the heat to steal the ball from Rapids defender Joey DiGiamarino and dribbled around goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to put Kansas City on top. The team fought and clawed for two more goals and never stopped running until the 4-1 victory was complete in the extreme heat of the mid-west.
Arguably the best individual performances from a Wizards player came under severe adversity, as KC took a team record five game losing streak to Foxboro, where the New England Revolution were undefeated at home. The game was scoreless for the first 75 minutes, until forward Digital Takawira took over. He scored from 12 yards out on a shot into the right corner of the net in the 76th minute. Three minutes later he faked two defenders and the goalie and put the ball into the upper right corner. Takawira struck again in the 85th minute on a volley from nine yards out. It marked the first ever hat trick for the Wizards, and, at the time, was the fastest three goals scored in MLS history. (Harut Karapetyan scored three goals in five minutes on 6/4 vs. the Dallas Burn).
Another equally impressive display came from 1997 MLS MVP Preki, setting a team record after grabbing three goals and two assists in the 5-1 demolition of the San Jose Clash.
The MLS also experienced its first suspended game, as a severe thunderstorm pounded Arrowhead Stadium during the Wizards game against D.C. United. Rain poured down continuously through the first 45 minutes and lightning crashed all around the stadium, so referee Rich Grady delayed the start of the second half for seven minutes. Play resumed, but with 37:46 left, Grady stopped the game again and the players were forced to leave the field. After a one hour and fifteen minute delay, the decision was made by MLS and Grady was to suspend the game. It was made up on Aug. 26, and D.C. prevailed 2-1. The make-up game was played in another thunderstorm, but without lightning so the inconvenience of a second suspended game was averted.