Closed lanes doom Wizards
The Kansas City Wizards' 3-2 loss in MLS Cup 2004 at The Home Depot Center was not solely a result of their own failures -- D.C. United certainly played their role too.
For the entire match, the Wizards had difficulty finding their dangerous forward tandem of Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff. Passes were off the mark or were intercepted before the strikers could latch onto them, stifling Kansas City's attack -- and the cause was clear to Wizards' coach Bob Gansler.
"[D.C. United] did a good job of sitting on our central stuff. It was a combination of their defending, our movement, and our service, but the service was difficult. There's an old soccer saying that says you play as well as the opponents let you," Gansler said.
Neither team was able to develop a smooth attacking flow early on -- nonetheless, Kansas City struck first through an unlikely source in left back Jose Burciaga Jr. as he was able to erase all memories of inaccurate Wizards' passes up to the sixth minute.
Burciaga was given space at the left corner of D.C.'s area some 25 yards out and unleashed a strong shot that bounded past United 'keeper Nick Rimando and nestled into the bottom right corner of the net.
The goal was the third quickest in MLS Cup history, but it did not inspire the Wizards to put their stamp on the game as Wolff and Arnaud continued to go hungry.
"They had [Brian] Carroll and Ben Olsen sitting underneath and in front of us," said Wolff. "Davy and I didn't do a good enough job of finding other spots."
And the Wizards paid for it dearly as the seemingly more determined United continued to apply pressure. In a seven-minute span, D.C. dominated as they blitzed the Wizards for three goals to take a 3-1 lead.
Growing increasingly frustrated with the clogged middle, the Wizards turned to the wings for hope.
"One thing that we do well is get people around and behind the ball, and they did that much better today than they have all year," said midfielder Kerry Zavagnin. "We thought if we got the ball wide and got service in there, Rimando would have to make decisions to come out and off his line, perhaps we could create mistakes in there.
"I think we were a little out of whack. You've got the give them credit for taking away our strength."
In the second half the Wizards finally cashed in on a ball into the box as Burciaga swerved in a corner touching off two Wizards' attempts on goal. The second was hit by back Jimmy Conrad and touched off the hand of United midfielder Dema Kovalenko. A penalty was called and Wolff stepped up and put the Wizards within one in the 58th minute.
The Wizards' offense continued to stall despite a few opportunities and their fate was finalized when the final whistle blew after six minutes of added time.
"It falls on all of us," Wolff said. "It's a team effort when we win and a team effort when we lose."
"It wasn't our day -- it doesn't take away from the year that we had," said Zavagnin. "You chalk it up as that. You say great season, and you go on."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.