Wizards putting it all together at right time
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When a team is getting solid play all over the field in support of outstanding plays by individual members of the cast, good things usually happen. And when good things continue to happen because of continued cooperation and interaction of those parts, streaks like the Kansas City Wizards current four-game winning run materialize.
As the 3-0 scoreline of Friday night's win indicates, the recently unheralded team defense was at the core of the triumph, eliminating Fire buildups all night.
"We'll take it. It was a good shutout for us. Nicky [Garcia], Jimmy [Conrad], Shavar [Thomas], Jose [Burciaga] - all those guys played great tonight and limited their opportunities," said K.C. 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi, who also gave a nod to central midfielders Kerry Zavagnin and Sasha Victorine. "I don't remember having a tough save at all tonight. You give that to the defense."
The solid defense set the foundation for the attack as the first goal came from an extended run down the left wing by Burciaga.
"Jimmy gave me a shot to step in and try and win that ball - I've got to help the guys out instead of letting Thiago turn and make a play," said the talented left back, who is like a runaway train when gaining momentum.
"As soon as I went at him, he took a longer stretch and I knew I was going to get behind him. It's what we do in practice, whip in a cross as hard as you can and something will come out of it. Luckily it did, and Scott was on the end of it."
The leading candidate for MLS rookie of the year, Wizards forward Scott Sealy once again displayed the innate ability to be in the right place at the right time as he took advantage of the misfortune of Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens in playing the cross.
"The keeper went down - I thought he had it. It fell out and I was there to tap it in. I'll take it any day," said Sealy, alluding to Pickens' ankle injury on the play. "It's my job to be there anyway. I had to go near post because Josh already went far post."
The goal put his team up in the crucial match against the Fire, who came in one point ahead of the Wizards in the logjam that is the Eastern Conference.
The next tally again came from a defensive play and brought the Wizards closer to claiming second place in the conference, as well as putting Sealy within two goals of tying Damani Ralph's 2003 league rookie record of 11.
Zavagnin gained possession just shy of midfield on a tackle and alertly spotted Sealy preparing to sneak behind the Chicago back line. The ball soon arrived for the Trinidad & Tobago international and he was in on Perkins' injury replacement, goalkeeper Zach Thornton.
"I saw him; he's a big guy. I knew if I took a touch, he was going to come out," said the 24-year-old, who had played 45 minutes Wednesday evening for his country against the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier. "I think he was expecting me to try blast it at him, but I decided to chip it over his leg."
The cool finish is reason to believe Sealy will soon vault over Ralph for the record. But Sealy realizes it is his team that makes it all possible.
"It definitely means a lot to me, if I'm able to achieve it. But at the same time, the team's winning," he said. "Sometimes I think if we keep playing well and I keep playing well there's no reason I shouldn't reach it."
Although Sealy would have surely loved to cap off the win by completing the hat trick, another player wanted a part in Kansas City's well-rounded script.
A second-half replacement for forward Josh Wolff, Jack Jewsbury finalized matters with a 73rd-minute rounding of Thornton from a well-timed Chris Klein pass.
"I just tried to play their offside trap and straddle the line. Once I got the ball, I checked the linesman to make sure I wasn't off and went straight at [Thornton]," said Jewsbury of his fourth marker of the season. "That was a one-on-one, he had to come out. I got him off balance going to my left and then pushed it wide and put it in the middle of the goal."
The Wizards had completed a balanced victory, and head coach Bob Gansler reflected on the meaning.
"The confidence that we are getting not only from the results but the way we play will serve us well," he said.
"[Sealy's] just like Josh; he's not a guy who does cartwheels when he's playing well and he's not a guy who sits in the corner and sucks his thumb when he's not," Gansler said. "He's an even keel kind of guy, and he's confident that he's going to get it back when it's not going well. And he's confident he can keep it going, and we are too."
And his players are enjoying the spreading of a can-do attitude.
"When we're moving the ball well and keeping the ball, we're a pretty tough team to play against," said Oshoniyi.
Added Burciaga: "We're playing well right now. I think we need to keep it going; we're dangerous right now."
Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.