E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
7:30 pm ET (MSG)
A newly formed Eastern Conference rivalry kicks off at the Meadowlands between a pair of teams who had last week off after opening their seasons. The MetroStars began their campaign with a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake two weeks ago on a night when it was barely possible to even play soccer. The Kansas City Wizards started their attempt to return to the MLS Cup Final with a 3-2 victory at home against the Colorado Rapids two weeks ago to complete their first weekend in the East sitting atop the heap.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): George Vergara; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Lee Suckel
MLS Career: 109 games; FC/gm: 26.7; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 29; pens: 19
Games involving MetroStars: P25 W7 L16 T2; FC/gm: 27.1; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 10; pens: 5
Games involving Wizards: P15 W8 L7 T0; FC/gm: 23.1; Y/gm: 2.4; R: 3; pens: 3
INJURY REPORT: METROSTARS - OUT: MF Eddie Gaven (L ring finger fracture); GK Jonny Walker (rotator cuff surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Youri Djorkaeff (L quadriceps strain); FW Jason Hernandez (L hamstring strain) ... KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - PROBABLE: MF John Minagawa-Webster (R MCL strain); MF Sasha Victorine (L hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: none
The two clubs will meet four times this season with the move of the Wizards to the Eastern Conference. They'll face each other again on May 25 at Arrowhead Stadium, then meet on back-to-back weekends late in the season, Sept. 10 at the Meadowlands then Sept. 17 in Kansas City.
A year ago, the MetroStars won the first two meetings before the Wizards came back for a victory in the third. The Metros won 1-0 at home on May 30 (Wolyniec 73), then 2-1 at Arrowhead on July 28 (Klein 37 - Glen 23, Guevara 66), but the Wizards captured a 1-0 victory at home on Sept. 4 (Wolff 43)
The MetroStars had won three consecutive meetings between the teams before Kansas City's triumph on Sept. 4 of last year. The teams had split their season series the three previous seasons before last year.
Coaches record: Bob Bradley v KC: P20 W14 L5 T1 ... Bob Gansler vs. MET: P16 W7 L6 D3
ALL-TIME (24 meetings): MetroStars 10 wins (2 shootout), 28 goals ... Wizards 11 wins (2 shootout), 32 goals ... 3 draws
AT GIANTS STADIUM: (10 meetings): MetroStars 5 wins (1 shootout), 13 goals ... Wizards 2 wins (0 shootout), 8 goals ... 3 draws
An unbelievably difficult night greeted the MetroStars and Real Salt Lake in the expansion team's inaugural match. Torrential rain and winds gusting up to 48 miles per hour made passing almost impossible, not to mention any sort of cohesive play.
Still, Real goalkeeper D.J. Countess was the hero on the night with two tremendous saves, saving from Sergio Galvan Rey in the first half when the Colombian striker raced in alone on goal, and then a remarkable stop on John Wolyniec in the second half when he dove to turn away his downward header.
"It was pretty difficult in terms of stringing any real, meaningful passes together, but we still felt, all in all, that it was a solid effort," said MetroStars coach Bob Bradley. "It's really just about dealing with the conditions out there, keeping your concentration and adjusting. You can't plan for this
Bradley set out his team in a somewhat adventurous formation for the season opener. He had Eddie Gaven and Sergio Galvan Rey coming from wide attacking positions with John Wolyniec as the spearhead in attack, with Amado Guevara ahead of a dual midfield anchor of Michael Bradley and Mark Lisi.
Here's Bradley's team (4-2-3-1): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke, Jeff Agoos - Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi - Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara, Sergio Galvan Rey (Mike Magee 67) - John Wolyniec
Bradley will certainly have one lineup change this week, as Gaven will be lost for up to four weeks after having screws put into the ring finger of his left hand. Gaven broke the finger while playing for the U.S. U-20 national team in South Korea.
However, that will be eased by the likely addition of Youri Djorkaeff, who is expected to make his MetroStars debut after suffering a hamstring injury early in the preseason. Djorkaeff told the New York Daily News he is confident of being in the lineup: "I am very happy because I recovered very quickly. It was between four and six weeks and it was just four weeks. ... My feeling is very, very good. This is most important."
Still, Bradley was less certain, though still pleased with the chances. "I haven't had the talk with him yet to see what's the best approach but it's good to see him doing well (in practice)," he said to the Herald News.
The Metros completed the acquisition of goalkeeper Mike Ueltschey to a developmental contract. He was on the books of the Columbus Crew in the 2003 season, but spent the entire season on loan to the A-League Impact de Montreal. Last year he was with the Puerto Rico Islanders, where he had eight shutouts in 17 games.
Defender Tim Ward will not be available this weekend, as he is with the U.S. U-20 national team on a trip to Holland and Germany.
The MetroStars return to action after a week off, following their scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake at Giants Stadium to open the 2005 campaign. The Metros are tied with the Chicago Fire at the foot of the Eastern Conference, both teams on one point and three points behind joint leaders New England Revolution and D.C. United, though the MetroStars have a game in hand.
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Wizards took a 2-0 lead into the halftime interval with a pair of goals in a six-minute span, Josh Wolff latching onto a long ball from Sasha Victorine before coolly hammering home an angled drive (34), then Jack Jewsbury pounding home a rebound of a blocked Wolff shot from just inside the penalty area (40).
The Rapids pulled a goal back through new signing Jeff Cunningham, who powerfully headed home a Chris Henderson cross (54), yet the Wizards restored their advantage when Wolff ran at the Colorado defense before freeing Chris Klein on the right, and he slotted home inside the far post (61).
The visitors caused some tense moments when they again cut the lead to one through Mark Chung, who ran onto a ball poked into the Wizards box and ripped a scorching drive past Bo Oshoniyi (81), but the Wizards held out for the win.
"We created opportunities," said Wizards coach Bob Gansler. "We got three goals and the fourth was a layup, but we didn't quite finish it. In the first half we were up 2-0 and created enough opportunities to be up more."
Gansler set out his team as expected in the season opener. Sasha Victorine filled the right back role and Chris Klein made his first league appearance in nearly a year.
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Sasha Victorine, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Chris Klein (Scott Sealy 81), Kerry Zavagnin, Diego Gutierrez, Jack Jewsbury (Alex Zotinca 70) - Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud.
The addition of Victorine as a fullback brings forward-minded players on both sides in the back four (Jose Burciaga on the left). "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."
The Rapids made a tactical shift in the second half, but Gansler refused to lay the change as the source of the two goals in the second half. "It was not that they (Colorado) changed formations, it was just that we got caught not being as attentive as we usually are defensively. But I'm not going to dwell on the negative," he said.
The Kansas City Wizards also had a week off after opening their 2005 season by holding on for a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Rapids at Arrowhead Stadium on April 2. The Wizards are tied for third place in the Eastern Conference with three points, level with the Columbus Crew, one point behind joint leaders New England Revolution and D.C. United.