Despite absences, K.C. ready for L.A.

which could provide a real benchmark for what's to come in the West over the second half of the campaign -- it's business as usual for the Wizards. And that attitude is just the way Wizards head coach Bob Gansler likes it.

Regular defenders Nick Garcia (caution point accumulation) and Shavar Thomas (red card suspension) will not be available to challenge Carlos Ruiz and company in the critical final third of the field. But the calm and confident Gansler feels he has a stacked deck to pull from.

"We've got options. We've done without Nick before; I think he missed a whole month earlier," said Gansler, not willing to tip his hand. "We feel good about our roster, and other people have stepped in. And we'll sort it out."

One possible scenario would involve a backline of Jose Burciaga Jr. and Diego Gutierrez -- who's figured more in the midfield this season -- on the flanks, with All-Star Jimmy Conrad and rookie Taylor Graham as center backs. But regardless of the makeup of the back four, midfield general Kerry Zavagnin knows the match will be a challenge.

"It seems to be that every time we play them it's a one goal game, and usually there's a lot on the line whether it's the regular season or playoffs. When you put two teams together that are in the same conference and battling for the lead ... it tends to create a little higher intensity," Zavagnin said.

Zavagnin pointed out the opportunistic Ruiz is the Wizards' main concern. Garcia and Ruiz have had some classic encounters before as Garcia has used physical tactics to disrupt the diminutive Guatemalan's rhythm. But on Saturday, the Wizards approach will be necessarily more encompassing.

"[We'll] try to cut off the service that he's given, especially with what they have in midfield," said Zavagnin, referring to Galaxy playmaker Andreas Herzog.

But Kansas City's attack -- the fourth-best in the league -- certainly has enough weapons to cause the Galaxy some difficulty, as it did in a 2-1 victory at The Home Depot Center in June. That wasn't lost on Gansler.

"What we did well last time is what we do well all the time. We defend well as a unit and we attack well as a unit," Gansler said.

Gansler's point is well taken as 10 Wizards have found the net this season.

"What we try to get done on the offensive end is to create opportunities in a variety of ways," Gansler said. "We have guys who are very good in the open field, so we gallop; we counter when it's appropriate, but we feel that we also threaten people in other ways."

Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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