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Eastern Conference Championship

Wizards bring strong showing on the road

The Wizards will try to carry over their successful home opener to the road Saturday when they play Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium.

The Dynamo had a successful home opener of their own Sunday, posting a 5-2 victory over Colorado.

Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad is listed as questionable and probably will not play in order to heal from his March 31 surgery to repair a sports hernia. The recovery period for Conrad's surgery is seven to 10 days. Saturday will be day eight since the surgery.

"There is no rush," Conrad said. "If you put a gun to my head, I could probably play this weekend. This [season] is a marathon, not a sprint."

Based on the Wizards' performance Saturday in a 3-1 victory over Columbus, there is no need for anyone to brandish that gun. Each team had six shots on goal, but the Wizards looked more dangerous attacking and safer defending. Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury and Eddie Johnson scored the Kansas City goals in a game in which the Wizards never trailed.

On Sunday, five Wizards will leave the team for Tuesday's United States-Jamaica international friendly in Cary, N.C. Defender Nick Garcia, forward Eddie Johnson, forward Josh Wolff and midfielder Kerry Zavagnin were selected for the United States. Jamaica selected midfielder Jermaine Hue. None of the players will miss a league game.

Forward Brian Ching, who was also selected by the U.S. for the Jamaica game, scored four of the five Dynamo goals Sunday against the Rapids to boost his side to a memorable debut in Houston.

The team name may longer be the San Jose Earthquakes, but Dynamo is the core of the same team that won the Supporters' Shield in 2005.

"They are a very good team," Wizards coach Bob Gansler said. "They play a high-tempo style of play. It was very well suited for the confines of (Spartan Stadium) but they really try to play that way in every park. Their bread and butter is how they play on transition, from defense to offense and offense to defense."

Now that they are in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards play the Western Conference Dynamo only twice in league play.

"They are legitimate favorites in their conference and in the league," Gansler said. "Having said that, we've played them well over the years whether it's been at their place or here. We're looking forward to that test."

Some of what will be on the test concerns Ching, whose size can be as big of a problem for opposing defenses as his finishing ability.

"We realize a lot of their goals came from wide positions and balls in the air," Wizards midfielder Sasha Victorine said. "That's what we have to do, cut down on balls that give Ching good service."

The Wizards' style is not a great deal different in that they like to make the quick transition once they gain possession, Victorine said.

"We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we put too many numbers forward and leave ourselves exposed at the back," Victorine said.

The Wizards and Dynamo put up the biggest number of goals in their opening games. But that does not necessarily mean a high-scoring game will result when they play each other.

"No, I wouldn't be surprised (at a low-scoring game)," Wizards defender Shavar Thomas said. "It's two good teams going against each other."

Defensively, the Wizards were relatively solid in the season opener. And it was not just the back four and goalkeeper.

"A lot of times, when you talk about defense, they talk about four guys in the back," Thomas said. "It's an 11-man project. This year, we want to limit our opponents' chances."

Since the beginning of February, the Wizards have played in Florida, Oklahoma and Germany. But this is the first away game that counts.

Playing the same game, and as effectively as they would at home, is Gansler's goal.

"I don't [think] -- for another five or 10 years, we're not at that point in the league -- where the home field will make that much of a difference," Gansler said. "You should just go and play your game. If the (home) crowd has more energy, [visitors] should go and use that as well."

The Wizards will get a good idea of how their game does away from home against a quality opponent.

"We'd definitely like it to be a little easier," Victorine said. "It's a good test for us overall to see where we are right now.

Robert Whitman 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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