Four Wizards weaving spell on RFK
The Kansas City Wizards may be chomping at the bit to get back on the field and try to finally overtake the Los Angeles Galaxy atop the Western Conference, but the impending dogfight will have to wait a while, as a handful of Wizards have some business to take care of at the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game in Washington, D.C this weekend.
Despite the fact that the Wizards have the second-best record in the league as MLS' ten teams hit the All-Star break, not a single Wizard was selected to start the midsummer showcase through voting by fans, media and MLS coaches, general managers and players. Fortunately for the Kansas City club, the oversight was corrected by Western Conference head coach Sigi Schmid of the L.A. Galaxy, who rewarded his rivals' 2004 accomplishments by naming four Wizards as All-Star reserves.
Leading the Kansas City contingent is midfielder Chris Klein, who, with eight assists, is tied atop the league leader board in that category with San Jose's Richard Mulrooney. Klein, in his seventh season in MLS -- all with the Wizards -- has provided much of the punch the Wizards needed to cover for team playmaker and 2003 MLS MVP Preki, who has missed all of the 2004 season thus far with an ankle injury. In addition to his league-leading assist total, Klein has chipped in four goals for a Wizards team that is tied for third in the league in goals scored.
Of course, the Wizards are no slouches at the other end of the field either, tying for second in MLS thus far in goals allowed -- 18 in 19 games. Much of the credit for that feat goes to defender Jimmy Conrad, who gets his first All-Star run-out this year. Conrad has yet to miss a minute of action in 2004, and in his time on the field, the sixth-year central defender has helped make goalkeeper Tony Meola's job much easier.
Also making his first All-Star start is Wizards midfielder Kerry Zavagnin, who despite a lack of big stats, is one of the most important cogs in the Kansas City machine. The defensive midfielder has long provided the link between the Wizards' back line and attackers. U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena has noticed Zavagnin's contributions to his club and has brought Zavagnin into the national team fold this year as the team tries to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
Rounding out the group of Wizards selected to the All-Star Game is forward Josh Wolff. After three injury-marred seasons in which Wolff saw action in just one season's worth of games, the still-dangerous striker has regained his form, notching five goals and five assists for 15 points. Though the injury bug seems to have bitten again and an aggravated knee may well keep Wolff out of the All-Star Game, his contributions to dispelling the myth that the Wizards are not an attacking team are clear.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.