Generosity not a goal of Wizards

In each of their first two matches of the season, the Kansas City Wizards have had 2-0 leads in the first half only to see them cut in half -- and in one instance totally erased when the opponent was able to put in a second goal to earn a point in the end.

Yes, the Wizards didn't lose either match, but they could have made things easier on themselves and could be atop their new conference even though they have played one less match than their new neighbors in the East.

And they thought they were doing something good by earning seemingly superior leads.

"It's ironic because last year it was, 'You guys win because you play defense so well.' And this year, we haven't lost yet, and it's 'but you're coughing up goals,'" said Wizards head coach Bob Gansler.

After earning two-goal leads in short timeframes to seemingly take control of each of their first couple of matches against the Colorado Rapids and the MetroStars, Kansas City has kindly given their beleaguered opponents chances to grab a share of the points.

"When you are up 2-0 anywhere, you shouldn't let the other guy come back in and that's what we did," said Gansler.

Many in soccer believe a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous of all because a team becomes comfortable feeling they have the game in hand and neglects to continue what had garnered them the lead in the first place. The theory finds credence in the Wizards' fall from grace at Giants Stadium after Jack Jewsbury and Chris Klein struck home in the 20th and 31st minutes respectively.

"We got seven shots in the first half that all came within the first [31] minutes. We didn't have shot in the rest of the half," Gansler said. "We needed to continue to attack and continue to do what we did well in order to get ourselves the upper hand. Sometimes good defense will spring your offense and sometimes good offense keeps the pressure of your defense. If we continue to attack the way we did in most of the first half, then maybe we get that third or fourth goal because we're capable of that."

Not taking further advantage against a team that might be on the verge of becoming downtrodden permits a glimmer of hope for the opponent as they sense the overconfidence and benefit from the carelessness that can come with it.

Gansler found the scenario work its way to reality on the MetroStars' first goal just two minutes shy of halftime.

"We turned the ball over very close to our own goal and they just picked up the spoils. It wasn't like a defender breakdown; it was an offensive breakdown, an unforced error," he said. "There's a concentration factor in there, individually or collectively, and the thing is that we know that we know how to defend. The fact is that we've been overgenerous and you've got to do better in terms of concentrating and in terms of putting pressure on the ball so they don't get good balls into the danger zones."

Against Colorado in the Wizards' home opener, Kansas City was able to put in a third goal after allowing the Rapids back in the match at 2-1. But as visitors at Giants Stadium, the Wizards buckled again and ended up with only the one point.

"We came out on fire, had a great start to the game. Letting [the MetroStars] back in it was disappointing," said midfielder Jack Jewsbury. "At the end of the day, we got a point, but it felt like we lost, too. So we need to make sure we tighten up on the defensive end and hopefully we continue to score goals."

As the Wizards journey across the country to play San Jose this Saturday night, they know that a repeat performance could end with a loss due to the smaller field dimensions at Spartan Stadium, where seemingly anything can happen quickly. But the Wizards also feel their unintentional generosity may entail a factor out of their control even though their defense remains strong.

"I don't think anything has really changed. We're still a tight-knit defensive group," Jewsbury said. "A couple [of goals] that last year may not have gone in, this year have seemed to find the back of the net. Last year we got some bounces and this year, so far, we're not getting them."

The last time the Wizards visited San Jose, not much went their way as they fell 2-0 to the 'Quakes in the first leg of the 2004 Western Division semifinal series. This time, though, the Wizards come in aware of their recent failures and are not likely to be a giving guest.

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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