Open Cup win hopeful prologue for K.C.
It was clear from the tweaked lineup posted before the match, the passion on display on the pitch, and through their substitutions that the Kansas City Wizards were in the 2004 U.S. Open Cup title match to win it.
And the reward made their work worthwhile and served as a measure of redemption for at least two Wizards players.
Sidelined for a month by nagging tendonitis in his right Achilles tendon, Tony Meola had made up his mind before the match that he would push aside any hindrance.
"I was going to go for it today. I came out for warm up and was ready to go," said a joyful Meola after another teammate sidelined for a long stretch in Igor Simutenkov scorched a free kick from 19 yards out through a porous Chicago Fire wall to give the Wizards a 1-0 victory and the Open Cup crown.
"I've played in this tournament on so many levels," Meola said. "This feels good to finally get it."
Simutenkov, a veteran of leagues in Russia, Spain and Italy, returned from a strained hamstring that has limited his playing time lately after sitting out most of the season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in preseason. He labeled the goal as his biggest.
"For me it has been very difficult -- I'm very happy," Simutenkov said through a wide grin.
As players began to come down from the initial elation, reality set in, and the Wizards begin to talk of the victory as a beginning to more glory.
"We've talked about winning two, and this is the path to get two, that's for sure," said Meola. "We got one out of the way -- our focus is on one thing right now: getting to the (MLS Cup) final and winning it."
The victory was won all over the park and through the determination of all concerned. Coach Bob Gansler spread credit wide but the attitude his team took was key, and will be vital from now on as they carry on towards the MLS playoffs.
"Your approach is important. Your psychological approach is important. That means you're composed, but you're also concentrated, and at the same time, you just play with a fury. You can't be successful without that, but it must be balanced with composure," said the veteran Wizards boss.
The celebration of another cup in the Wizards trophy case will be short-lived, as that drive toward more honors begins this Saturday at Arrowhead, when Kansas City has a huge clash with second place Colorado.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.