Wizards find offensive rhythm
If the season opener is any indication, MLS teams will need to take notice of a more expansive Kansas City Wizards attack as the Colorado Rapids found out Saturday evening at Arrowhead Stadium. The hosts attacked early and often on their way to a 3-2 season-opening victory somewhat tempered by a late defensive lapse.
The foursome of wide midfielders Chris Klein, Jack Jewsbury, and forwards Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff were able to create and utilize space efficiently from the opening whistle.
"I think that's the way you want to start games at home. We got some good looks, and (Rapids goalkeeper) Joe (Cannon) came up with some big saves early," Wolff said. "You've got to keep plugging away, taking your chances where you can."
Despite the denials of Cannon and his defenders, the Wizards persisted and broke through in the 34th minute on the alert play of Wolff and right back Sasha Victorine.
Playing in his first MLS match with the Wizards and still adjusting to a late preseason move to the back line, Victorine found saw Wolff make a space-creating run and delivered a spot-on 45 yard pass. Wolff dashed into the Rapids box and blew a shot past a stranded Cannon to become the first to cash in on the Wizards' chances.
"With our forwards and their speed we can usually get the ball in behind. It was good running [by Wolff] -- all I had to do was knock the ball over the top," said Victorine.
Six minutes later Wolff, attacking on the left side this time, slotted a ball for a well-positioned Arnaud whose shot caromed off a prone defender and sat up for Jewsbury, who made no mistake in giving the Wizards a two-goal lead.
"We're going to use our backs to whip balls in to the front runners, if we can hold it we want the flank guys to join in," Wolff said. "I think the pressure ended up getting to them and we got some good opportunities. It was good for us to get two pretty quick there and open up the game for ourselves."
Despite a golden opportunity began by Wolff again early in the second half, the Wizards were unable to finish off the Rapids as Klein received from Wolff and fed an onrushing Arnaud, but his driven cross skipped just in front of Wolff at the back post of Colorado's goal.
Taking advantage, the Rapids got within one as Jeff Cunningham struck a powerful header just 10 seconds after coming on the pitch. The goal was his first with the Rapids after coming over from the Columbus Crew and it breathed new life into the visitors in the 54th minute.
"A great way to start my Rapids career, eh?" Cunningham said. "I was more excited for the fact that we were back in the game. From that point on, we we're able to play better football. We just ran out of time."
The Wizards offensive flow was not inhibited though as the home side struck again, this time Klein was the finisher as he was broke in freely on Cannon onto a ball from Wolff.
"When we get out and make the right pass, we give ourselves some time on the ball. When we're up like that, the other team's trying to push it, so it's important to connect on those plays and finish them off," Wolff said.
As the offense continued to prosper in open spaces, the defense hiccupped, allowing Colorado a 81st-minute goal that made things uncomfortable in the end.
"It's that second one that we need to make sure we stop from happening. Because when you are 3-1 up at home with 12 minutes left, it should be automatic," said Victorine.
Kansas City head coach Bob Gansler kept the focus on the performance of his attackers.
"We got caught not being as attentive as we want to be and as we usually are defensively, but I'm not going to dwell on the negative," he said. "We're working on sharing the ball, getting forward big numbers and creating opportunities.
"This is something we can build on," Gansler said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.