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KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Saturday, 7:30 pm CT (no TV)
A pair of Western Conference rivals that had a pitched battle a year ago come together after some middling early-season results that have been close to going either way. The Kansas City Wizards lost for the first time last weekend when they allowed their first goal of the campaign, but they've hit the back of the net just one in those three matches. The Colorado Rapids are undefeated on the young season, but didn't take three points until last week, when they held on for a 1-0 victory at home against the defending MLS Cup champion.
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Thomas Supple; JAR (opposite): Bahij Salman; 4th: Ricardo Salazar
MLS Career: first game
Games involving Wizards: first game
Games involving Rapids: first game
INJURY REPORT: KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MD Preki (L fractured fibula/L dislocated ankle); FW Igor Simutenkov (L torn Achilles tendon); QUESTIONABLE: DF Nick Garcia (R third metatarsal inflammation); PROBABLE: FW Davy Arnaud (L mid-foot contusion) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: Jeff Stewart (R knee); Zizi Roberts (R knee); John Spencer (L hamstring strain); Darryl Powell (L hamstring Strain); Michael Erush (skull fracture/concussion); PROBABLE: Seth Trembly (L knee)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: none
The two clubs come together for the first of four meetings this season, the first of the two in Kansas City. They'll meet again at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 25, but first, they'll have played twice in Colorado - on June 9 and Sept. 11.
A year ago in league play, the Rapids won twice and the Wizards once, with one meeting ending in a draw, and only the home team winning.
The Rapids won on July 4 in Denver in dramatic fashion before another huge Independence Day crowd (Spencer 44 pen, Chung 77, 92+ - Preki 23, Armstrong 91+), the teams then playing to a equally dramatic 2-2 draw in Kansas City on Aug. 22 (Arnaud 1, Preki 93+ - Henderson 29, Spencer 41).
The Rapids won again, 1-0 at home on Sept. 13 (Spencer 83), before the Wizards won at home 4-2 on Oct. 4 (Conrad 15; Klein 21, 82; Gomez 91+ - Roberts 47, Henderson 60).
The teams then met in the Western Conference semifinals, the Wizards winning 3-1 on aggregate. They played to a 1-1 draw in Denver in the first leg (Borchers 53 - Harris 3), before Kansas City advanced with a 2-0 home victory in the second leg (Simutenkov 47+; Klein 63).
The Rapids also eliminated the Wizards from the U.S. Open Cup when they faced each other in the third round a year ago, winning
The Rapids have won the season series each of the last two seasons, the Wizards winning the season series the two years before that. Twice a team has won all four yearly meetings - K.C. winning all four games in 1997 (one by shootout), Colorado all four in 1999 (three by shootout).
Preki is the Wizards all-time leader against the Rapids with 9 goals, 16 assists. Chris Klein is next among active players (fourth all-time for the club) with 6 goals, 3 assists. Josh Wolff has 5 goals, 2 assists for his career v Colorado - but none while with the Wizards. Diego Gutierrez also 7 assists - none while with K.C.
John Spencer leads the Rapids all-time performance with 8 goals, 3 assists. Chris Henderson has 6 goals, 6 assists - all but 1 assist while with Colorado. Mark Chung also 3 goals, 2 assists against one of his former teams - all while in Colorado.
Coaches record: Bob Gansler v COL: P18 W5 L7 T6 ... Tim Hankinson vs. KC: P17 W4 L7 D6
ALL-TIME (31 meetings): Wizards 13 wins (1 shootout), 58 goals ... Rapids 12 wins (3 shootout), 44 goals ... 6 draws
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
Toni Nhleko's 17th-minute goal gave the Burn a victory for the second consecutive week. A year after finishing with the league's worst record, the Burn began a season unbeaten over three games for just the second time in club history, first since 1998.
It was another lightning-quick counter that led to the Dallas goal. A long, searching ball downfield found Nhleko, who slipped past a falling Kansas City defender and raced into the area. As he crossed in front of goal he rolled a shot back across which slipped in behind two defenders and Wizards 'keeper Tony Meola, the first goal allowed by Kansas City this season.
Wizards coach Bob Gansler made just one change to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 at home the weekend before. Chris Klein returned from suspension, preferred to Francisco Gomez in the midfield.
Here's Gansler's team (4-1-3-2): Tony Meola - Alex Zotinca (Matt Taylor 77), Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas, Nick Garcia (Jose Burciaga Jr. 46) - Kerry Zavagnin - Diego Walsh (Francisco Gomez 62), Diego Gutierrez, Chris Klein - Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
"I think it was an even game in terms that our effort was good. We had enough chances to get a goal or two," said Gansler. "We just didn't take good enough care of the ball. They're at their best when they (get in) the transition game."
Despite failing to score for the second time in three matches this season, Gansler said he was pleased with his strike force of Wolff and Arnaud. "(Wolff's) been very sharp in our preseason," said Gansler. "He and Davy have struck a pretty good partnership up there and they were the proverbial centimeters away from connecting on a number of very good combinations off of each other."
Garcia was forced off at halftime after re-injuring an inflamed left foot that threatened to keep him entirely out of the Dallas match. He was replaced by Jose Burciaga Jr., who made his first league appearance in nearly a year, since May 3, 2003.
The goal snapped the Wizards scoreless streak at 196 minutes, the fifth-longest such streak to open the season in MLS history, but still some 2 = hours from the best-ever mark (Dallas Burn, 343 minutes, 1999).
The Wizards signed defender Vuk Rasovic on Tuesday, and placed midfielder Stephen Armstrong on waivers. Rasovic, 31, was previously with Krylya Sovetov (Soviet Wings) of Russia's Premier League, and before that with Partizan Belgrade for four seasons. He has represented Serbia and Montenegro 10 times.
"We spent our preseason in Portugal with Vuk and he impressed us. He is an experienced, wily and technically clean defender," said Gansler. "We feel with where he has been and the experiences he has gathered both in Yugoslavia and Russia, he is going to serve us well. He can play anywhere across the back line and maybe even in defensive midfield, but we brought him in to be another option in our back four.
The Kansas City Wizards lost for the first time in 2004, falling 1-0 to the Dallas Burn at the Cotton Bowl in a battle of unbeatens. The loss left the Wizards tied for last place in the Western Conference, level on four points with the San Jose Earthquakes after a win, a draw and a loss in three matches.
Chris Henderson scored a 26th-minute goal to maintain the Rapids home unbeaten streak. Colorado hasn't lost in 14 league home games going back to last season.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman collected the ball in his own half and played it 50 yards downfield to Henderson, who ran onto the ball on the right flank with no defenders in sight. Henderson's low drive from inside the penalty area beat San Jose 'keeper Pat Onstad just inside his right-hand post.
Rapids coach Tim Hankinson made two changes to the team that drew 1-1 with the Los Angeles Galaxy the week before in their home opener. Pablo Mastroeni made his first MLS appearance in 2004, coming into central defense for Gary Sullivan, while Chris Henderson returned from suspension after having been sent off in the season opener, with Darryl Powell failing a late fitness test with a bad hamstring.
Antonio de la Torre moved from his right back role of the first two matches to a central midfield scheming role, with Matt Crawford starting at right back.
"We know Antonio can play in the midfield," Hankinson said. "It's really the best of the two positions that he plays."
Here's Hankinson's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Matt Crawford, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Ritchie Kotschau - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Antonio de la Torre, Mark Chung - Jean-Philippe Peguero (Gary Sullivan 89), John Spencer (David Castellanos 73).
"There's no question we had three or four great chances," Hankinson said. "You'd like to see at least one more of those go in. We'd like to be able to build on that first goal and get the game under control."
Henderson's goal gave him 99 league points with the Rapids, and he's one behind the club record set by Paul Bravo. "What means a lot is that it's Paul Bravo who I'm catching, and he's a good friend of mine," Henderson said.
Hankinson was thrilled with the return of Mastroeni to central defense. "He's a best XI center back...I think his voice and organizational skills have been excellent. He's one of the best defenders in the league in dealing with quick, darting, tricky players like De Rosario. He just seems to read their movements so well and is a true ball winner."
Mastroeni and left back Ritchie Kotschau were named to the U.S. squad for the midweek friendly against Mexico in Dallas, replacing defenders Dan Califf (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Cory Gibbs (Dallas Burn).
But Hankinson will have some serious selection issues this week. John Spencer suffered a pulled hamstring late in the match against San Jose and could be out for the next three weeks. Zizi Roberts suffered a bone bruise to his right knee during the week of training, which kept him out of the San Jose game and will likely leave him unavailable for the next two weekends.
The Colorado Rapids won for the first time this season and stayed unbeaten on the campaign with a 1-0 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes at Invesco Field. The Rapids stayed in third place in the Western Conference with five points from their three matches, three points off the pace of the Los Angeles Galaxy.