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COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM
7:30 pm ET (HDNet)
A midweek matchup of the second-place teams in each conference awaits, both sides hit by national team call-ups on the World Cup qualifying date, but also heading in different directions. For the Columbus Crew, riding their second seven-game winning streak of the season, it's the first of two games-in-hand that could close the gap between them and the Eastern Conference-leading MetroStars. For the Kansas City Wizards, it's yet another chance to take over top spot in the Western Conference from the Los Angeles Galaxy - but since getting that close, they've gone three games without a win.
REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Jose Corro; JAR (opposite): Chip Reed; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 77 games; FC/gm: 30.7; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 18; pens: 28
Games involving Crew: P11 W4 L7 T0; FC/gm: 29.5; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 2; pens: 5
Games involving Wizards: P15 W5 L4 T6; FC/gm: 29.1; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 2; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MD Chris Klein (L knee torn ACL); PROBABLE: MD Preki (L fractured fibula/L dislocated ankle) ... COLUMBUS CREW - NONE REPORTED
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CLB: DF Frankie Hejduk (USA, 8/18 v Jamaica); FW Erick Scott (Costa Rica Olympic team) ... KC: MD Kerry Zavagnin (USA, 8/18 v Jamaica)
YELLOW PERIL: KC: Alex Zotinca (10 CP in 2 gms); Diego Gutierrez (8 CP in 2 gms)
This is the third and final meeting between the two teams this season, the second in Columbus. The Wizards won the only encounter at Arrowhead, before the teams played to a 2-2 draw in their first meeting at Crew Stadium on June 12.
A late penalty from Jeff Cunningham - his second goal - gave the Crew the draw. Cunningham put the Crew ahead on 27 minutes with some wonderful individual skill, racing between defender Nick Garcia and the byeline before toe-poking his shot home from an impossible angle on the left.
But the visitors scored twice within three minutes before the break, both from headers by central defenders directly off corner kicks from the right, first Jimmy Conrad (21) and then Shavar Thomas (24).
Yet seven minutes from the final whistle, Cunningham was pulled down with a shirt tug by Garcia and stepped up to take his only penalty, driving the ball under Meola's dive to the right for his fourth goal in three games and fifth of the campaign.
Here's Greg Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Nelson Akwari, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Duncan Oughton, Manny Lagos (Simon Elliott 77), Ross Paule, Eric Denton - Kyle Martino (Devin Barclay 89) - Michael Ritch (David Testo 46), Jeff Cunningham.
Here's Bob Gansler's team (4-4-2): Tony Meola - Alex Zotinca, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas (Jose Burciaga Jr. 88), Nick Garcia - Chris Klein, Kerry Zavagnin, Jack Jewsbury (Francisco Gomez 76), Diego Gutierrez - Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
They met this season on April 17 at Arrowhead Stadium, the Wizards winning by the only goal against a 10-man Crew. Tony Meola was credited with a 50th career shutout as the Wizards eased to victory in a match that completely turned over a three-minute span just before the break.
Davy Arnaud gave the Wizards a 42nd-minute lead when he ran on to Kerry Zavagnin's ball looped over the defense, lobbing Crew 'keeper Jon Busch himself from just inside the area for the only goal of the match. Two minutes later Crew defender Frankie Hejduk was sent off for retaliating against Alex Zotinca after the two tangled while awaiting a free kick.
A year ago, the teams split their three meetings - each team winning once with one draw. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in their first meeting, May 3 in Kansas City as the home side scored a late equalizer (Preki 47+ pen; Quill 89 - McBride 49, Martino 55).
The Wizards then won the first meeting in Columbus on July 19 by 1-0 (Simutenkov 58), before the Crew reversed that scoreline at Crew Stadium on August 31 (West 37).
Three of the last four seasons the teams have split the season series. In 1999, the Crew won both meetings; the only time one team had an advantage since came in 2002 when the Crew won one match with one draw.
Preki leads all Kansas City players with 8 goals, 8 assists v Columbus, and he has 9 goals, 11 assists for his career v the Crew. No other current Wizards player has more than one career goal v Columbus; seven have one goal each, but Chris Klein also has 5 assists.
Jeff Cunningham now leads the all-time Columbus records against the Wizards with 7 goals, 3 assists. Next is Brian Maisonneuve with 5 goals, 5 assists, and Edson Buddle has 2 goals, 4 assists. Ross Paule has 4 goals, 4 assists v Kansas City - but only 1 assist while a member of the Crew.
Coaches record: Greg Andrulis v KC: P8 W3 L2 T3 ... Bob Gansler vs. CLB: P12 W4 L5 D3
ALL-TIME (22 meetings): Crew 10 wins (0 shootout), 45 goals ... Wizards 9 wins (2 shootout), 35 goals ... 3 draws
IN COLUMBUS (12 meetings): Crew 6 wins (0 shootout), 23 goals ... Wizards 4 wins (1 shootout), 17 goals ... 2 draws
Both the Galaxy and Crew narrowly missed chances to break the deadlock in the closing minutes, Columbus playing to a draw for the fifth time in six matches.
Carlos Ruiz nearly put home a quick-thinking backheel from the heart of the box with 10 minutes to go, but hooked it just over the bar. The Crew raced to the other end where Columbus defender Duncan Oughton hammered a drive from well outside the area - only to see it come back off the underside of the bar.
"It felt like a home game the way we kept the ball," Oughton said. "You couldn't fault anyone. I thought we played really well as a team."
Crew coach Greg Andrulis made one change to the team that drew 2-2 with the New England Revolution the weekend before. Nelson Akwari came back into the back three and Duncan Oughton moved into a midfield role, Manny Lagos returning to the substitutes bench.
Here's Andrulis's team (3-5-2): Jon Busch - Nelson Akwari, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Chris Wingert (Eric Denton 90), Simon Elliott, Duncan Oughton, Ross Paule, Frankie Hejduk - Edson Buddle (Jeff Cunningham 78), Kyle Martino (Devin Barclay 90).
"We were able to find the seams," Andrulis said. "Our possession was terrific. Our final third needs a little work, but it was a terrific game for us. It felt like for stretches of the game we had a lot of the possession. We didn't put enough pressure on Hartman. We were a little too fine in front of him."
The Crew are just the second team in MLS history to have two unbeaten streaks of seven games or more in the same season. In 1999, D.C. United won seven in a row from May 8 to June 13, then won 11 in a row later that season (July 25 - Sept. 25)
The Crew went unbeaten in seven games from May 1 to June 12, then after two losses, embarked on their current unbeaten run - meaning they've lost just twice in their last 16 games (6-2-8). "It's a good feeling," Andrulis said. "It shows how consistent we've been. We know we have to get over the hump to turn solid ties into wins."
For the second consecutive, Erick Scott played 90 minutes for Costa Rica at the Athens Olympics, in their 2-0 loss to Iraq on Aug. 15. Costa Rica finished Group D play on Wednesday against Portugal, needing a victory to have any chance of advancing.
Frankie Hejduk was the only Columbus player called into the U.S. team for their CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston on Wednesday.
The Columbus Crew saw their unbeaten run extend to seven matches - matching their and the league's long for the season - when they played to a drab scoreless draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night. The Crew made up a little ground on the MetroStars in the Eastern Conference, now six points behind on 26 points from 19 matches - but with two matches in hand.
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
Landon Donovan put on a masterclass display, scoring twice to send the Wizards to a frustrating second consecutive defeat, and for the third time keeping Bob Gansler's club from taking over the Western Conference leadership.
Donovan sent home a glancing near-post header of a Brian Mullan cross to give the Earthquakes a 27th-minute lead, then doubled it just before the hour in fine fashion, running onto a through ball from Brian Ching and beating a couple of defenders on the run before slotting home past Tony Meola (59).
The Wizards saw Igor Simutenkov - making his first start of the season - rattle the woodwork on two occasions, and then after the match lost influential midfielder Chris Klein for the remainder of the campaign with a knee injury suffered late in the match.
"(Donovan's) a good player, and he needs to be accounted for. Today, we didn't do it. We were tentative for some reason. Offensively, we didn't put much together either," Wizards coach Bob Gansler said. "We did not play like what we think we are, which is one of the better teams (in MLS)."
Gansler made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 to the MetroStars on July 28 at Arrowhead. Igor Simutenkov made his first start of the season after offseason Achilles surgery and Diego Gutierrez returned to the lineup, both coming into midfield for Jack Jewsbury and Francisco Gomez. Josh Wolff also returned from a minor injury, coming in for Justin Detter in attack.
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2) Tony Meola, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas (Justin Detter 77), Jose Burciaga Jr. (Jack Jewsbury 64) - Chris Klein, Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Igor Simutenkov (Francisco Gomez 54) - Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud.
The loss of Klein could be particularly devastating. He was injured in the 78th minute of the match yet played the entire contest, only an MRI late on Saturday night confirming the injury. He will undergo a surgical procedure overseen by Dr. Bert Mandelbaum later this week.
Simutenkov made his first appearance of the season after suffering the Achilles injury before even leaving his home country of Russia. Nominally an out-and-out striker, Gansler lined he and Klein as attack-minded wide midfielders. "It was OK," Simutenkov said. "My fitness and conditioning were fine."
The two-goal performance was another Wizards-killing display by Donovan. He scored four goals in the two meetings between the two teams in Kansas City last season, then scored a conference-winning golden goal to claim a berth in the MLS Cup Final in last year's Western Conference final.
"I don't know what it is. They have one of the best defenses and goalkeepers in this league," Donovan said. "Some days, you feel better than others. I felt good running with the ball from the start today. I told myself today I wanted to take some more chances, do better when I was running at them with the ball."
The Wizards will face the Earthquakes again in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, the winner guaranteed of reaching the Open Cup Final for the first time in club history. They will play at the Blue Valley Athletic Complex in Overland Park on Tues., Aug. 24.
Kerry Zavagnin is now the only Wizards player in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying this week, called into Bruce Arena's team for the match against Jamaica in Kingston on Wednesday. Klein was supposed to be part of the squad until his injury.
The Kansas City Wizards lost for the second consecutive match and saw their winless streak advance to three games in a 2-0 victory by the San Jose Earthquakes at Arrowhead Stadium. The Wizards were once again denied the opportunity of taking over top spot in the Western Conference, still second place in the division with 32 points from 20 matches, now two behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and just five ahead of the last-place Earthquakes.