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KANSAS CITY, Mo.
7 pm CT (no TV)
Last season, the Kansas City Wizards began their season with some real concerns - and ended the campaign in the MLS Cup Final, though they fell just short of winning a second championship. This year it's business as usual for Bob Gansler's men, but this time with Preki and Chris Klein from season's start. The Colorado Rapids have brought in Fernando Clavijo as coach as they look to turn around an anemic attack from a year ago that still reached the playoffs and came close to getting 90 minutes from MLS Cup, thanks mostly to the goalkeeping of Joe Cannon.
REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Tom Supple; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Roni Canales
MLS Career: 81 games; FC/gm: 30.8; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 18; pens: 29
Games involving Wizards: P18 W7 L5 T6; FC/gm: 29.2; Y/gm: 2.7; R: 2; pens: 6
Games involving Rapids: P11 W5 L3 T3; FC/gm: 30.7; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 4; pens: 3
INJURY REPORT: KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MF John Minagawa-Webster (R MCL strain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: DF Ricky Lewis (facial fracture); PROBABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (R ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
With the move of the Wizards to the Eastern Conference, the two teams meet just twice this season. This is their only encounter in Kansas City; they'll meet on July 4 in Denver.
A year ago, the Wizards won three of the four meetings between the two teams. Kansas City didn't allow a goal in winning the first two meetings. The Wizards won 2-0 on May 1 at Arrowhead despite playing a man down for more than a half (Klein 64, Wolff 84), then 1-0 in Denver in June 9 behind a Wolff penalty (92+).
The Rapids claimed a 3-1 victory in the Mile High City on Sept. 10 (Chung 24 pen, Cila 60, Beckerman 92+ - Wolff 11 pen), but the Wizards rebounded two weeks later in K.C. behind an Igor Simutenkov 55th-minute goal.
The Wizards have won four of the last five league meetings between the clubs. In all competitions, they haven't lost to Colorado in their last eight meetings, including a pair of MLS Cup Playoffs games and a U.S. Open Cup meeting.
Colorado hasn't won in four matches in Kansas City, having lost the last three after a 2-2 in their first Arrowhead meeting in 2003. The Rapids last win at Kansas City came Sept. 14, 2002.
Coaches record: Bob Gansler vs. COL: P20 W8 L8 D6 ... Fernando Clavijo v KC: P4 W1 L3 T0
ALL-TIME (28 meetings): Wizards 16 wins (1 shootout), 63 goals ... Rapids 13 wins (3 shootout), 47 goals ... 6 draws
AT ARROWHEAD STADIUM (17 meetings): Wizards 12 wins (0 shootout), 39 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 16 goals ... 2 draws
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Wizards hammered Real Salt Lake 4-1 in their final preseason match last Friday night in Tulsa. The Wizards conceded a goal early in the second half before exploding for four goals in 19 minutes from Diego Gutierrez (70), Jack Jewsbury (72), Chris Klein (84) and Davy Arnaud (89).
Here's Bob Gansler's team on the night (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Sasha Victorine, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Luis Burciaga Jr.; Chris Klein, Alex Zotinca, Diego Gutierrez, Jack Jewsbury (Brian Roberts); Davy Arnaud, Diego Walsh (Preki 63)
Earlier on the same night, a number of young Wizards players got a run-out as the club's reserve side lost to University of Tulsa 3-2. Jake Bleyenburg and Justin Detter scored for the Wizards. Here's that team: William Hesmer - Michael Haynes, Shavar Thomas (Dustin Branan 46), Brian Bliss, Scott Kincaid; Josh Duffy, Doug Lascody, Khari Stephenson (Brian Roberts 46), Jake Bleyenberg; Justin Detter, Ryan Pore
The Wizards - along with D.C. United - were the only team in MLS to have kicked a ball in anger this season when they suffered an agonizing loss in the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals against Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Kansas City, then a Diego Gutierrez free kick gave the Wizards a late lead in the return leg in San Jose. But with almost the final kick of the game Gerald Drummond sent the match in extra time, then he scored again to send last year's Champions Cup runner-up into the semifinals against CF Monterrey of Mexico.
Here's the team Gansler sent out in the second leg: Bo Oshoniyi - Sasha Victorine, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, José Luis Burciaga Jr., Chris Klein, Kerry Zavagnin, Diego Gutiérrez (83: Alex Zotinca), Khari Stephenson (46: Diego Walsh) (105: Jack Jewsbury), Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud.
Sasha Victorine has been slotted into right back to begin the campaign, as he and Jose Burciaga form an attacking option on the flanks. "We feel if we're going to play a four-man back line, a key is to get [the wide backs] out into midfield and beyond in order to help us offensively, so the reason we put [Victorine] there is not a defensive measure, it's an offensive measure. It seems to be working; it's a work in progress," Gansler said.
The Wizards also hope rookie Scott Sealy provides some danger in depth for the attacking pair of Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff, who combined for 19 goals last season. Sealy was with the Trinidad & Tobago national team for much of preseason. "I think we need somebody else to step up and give us some depth. Is that going to be Scott? We just saw him for a couple of days. However it was an impressive couple of days," said wide midfielder Chris Klein.
Josh Wolff came on as a 79th-minute substitute in the World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. He did not play in the match in Mexico.
The Wizards signed two developmental players to begin the week leading up to the season opener. 21-year-old midfielder Ryan Raybould, a product of Yale University, and defender Daniel Dobson, who played at the University of Memphis, were added to the squad.
A year ago, the Wizards opened the season with a scoreless draw at home against the Chicago Fire. The victory kept Kansas City's record on Opening Day above .500, with four victories, three losses and two draws to begin the campaign in club history.
There have been very few changes in Kansas City after the Wizards defied all expectations in a Western Conference championship and trip to the MLS Cup Final. They nearly got the new campaign off to a fabulous start, coming 30 seconds away from a huge upset in the CONCACAF Champions Cup before they were dumped out at the quarterfinal stage in mid-March.
The Rapids concluded their preseason with a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas on March 26 in Austin, Texas. Alain Nkong gave the Black-and-Blue a 57th-minute lead, but then received a second yellow card five minutes later to leave the Rapids a man down. It turned the tide of the match, as Ty Maurin equalized 10 minutes from time then an own goal gave FC Dallas the victory in the 87th minute.
Here's Fernando Clavijo's team: Cannon - Kotschau, Melamed (Denton 45), Borchers, Gargan, Morales, Beckerman, Nkong, Henderson (Cooke 57), Harris (Gonzalez 61), Cunningham
Nkong, a Cameroon international, was one of three signings to the Rapids squad in the final days leading up to the season opener. The 26-year-old was last with Nacional in Uruguay, having also played in Spain for Las Palmas and Portugal's Ferreira.
The club also signed winger Terry Cooke, last with English side Sheffield Wednesday. He came up through the Manchester United youth system, and while he never played a first-team game there, moved to Manchester City in 1998. After two seasons at Grimsby Town, he joined Wednesday for the '03-04 season.
In addition, Jamaican international Wolde Harris has returned for a second stint with the club. Harris spent from 1997-99 with the Rapids before moving to the New England Revolution, where he was until a 2003 trade to the Kansas City Wizards. Harris then played in Sweden with Boden BK (second division) last year. He has 50 goals in his seven MLS seasons.
Pablo Mastroeni started both World Cup qualifying matches for the USA last week, both times in a central midfield role. He played 70 minutes against Mexico, a 2-1 loss at Estadio Azteca, then playing the entire match three days later in the 2-0 victory against Guatemala.
A year ago, the Rapids opened their season with a 1-1 draw at the Cotton Bowl against the Dallas Burn (Rhine 75 pen - Spencer 36). In nine season openers, the Rapids have lost seven and drawn two.
In 2002, the Rapids played to a 1-1 draw with Kansas City at Mile High Stadium to open the campaign, the first time in club history they had taken points in the first game. Three times (1997, '98 and '99) Colorado played to level terms at the end of 90 minutes, only to lose in the shootout.
The Fernando Clavijo era begins in the Mile High City as the Colorado Rapids once again look to kick off their season with a victory on Opening Day. There's been an attempt to bolster the attack from a year ago - the first team in league history to go the entire season averaging less than a goal per game - and Clavijo has also increased the club's approach to fitness as they try to make their home a Mile High Fortress.