Wizards, Saprissa end first leg scoreless
Despite playing their first competitive match in nearly four months, the Kansas City Wizards played to a scoreless draw against Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinal series.
The second leg in the aggregate goals series will be March 17 at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica.
In front of an intimate, but avid gathering, both sides created a fair number of chances in an intense match marked by a level of physicality.
The Wizards held most of the early possession and nearly cashed in with the match only nine minutes old. Frontrunner Josh Wolff was played through just inside the top of the penalty box to the right of Saprissa 'keeper Francisco Porras. When the flag stayed down for offside, Wolff touched the ball toward goal and was upended by Porras just as he let go an attempt at goal. Despite the crowd's clamor for a penalty, referee Gilberto Alcala of Mexico ruled no foul had been committed.
As the match settled in, the Wizards deflected Saprissa's occasional forays forward and continued to have most of the ball. Spraying the ball around well, the Wizards failed to execute any serious threats until midfielder Chris Klein fired high from long range in the 24th minute.
The momentum changed soon though, as Saprissa nearly stole a goal five minutes later when Alonso Solis broke free down the right side, evaded a sliding Jimmy Conrad, and pushed the ball back for lone forward Ronald Gomez. His shot was well struck, but Bo Oshoniyi was able to pick the shot up through traffic and make the save to his right.
Awakened, Saprissa threatened again in the 33rd minute. Ronald Gomez continued to be a handful for the Wizards, causing palpitations every time he played near the goal. This time he collected the ball 25 yards from goal, and with two defenders at his side, hit a low burner that Oshoniyi did well to save to his right.
Saprissa opened the second half with same quick ball movement they earlier used to their advantage, while the Wizards struggled to sustain an attack. However, the Wizards were nearly gifted the advantage shortly after the break as a Saprissa defender gave the ball to midfielder Klein 15 yards from goal. Klein fed forward Davy Arnaud, but his shot trickled wide to the right of the goal.
The in-season visitors finally won their first corner of the match in the 60th minute and knocked on the Wizards' door again, this time on a nodding header by back Gabriel Badilla that softly landed in Oshoniyi's hands.
The Wizards quickly turned around momentum and won a series of corners, culminating in Wolff latching onto a blocked Jose Burciaga shot deep and to the right of goal and letting fly a drive that brushed the crossbar above the outstretched hands of 'keeper Porras. The ball landed to the left of goal and was cleared to safety.
Then the home side went very close in the 72nd minute with their best chance of the half as captain Diego Gutierrez flighted a ball off a restart from the right corner of the box. Arnaud rose and speared a header to the waiting Porras who stood his ground to make the save.
There was one final desperate moment for the Wizards when they were called for an indirect foul in the penalty area four minutes from full time. Saprissa tried to pound the ball home, but the Wizards wall blocked Saprissa's attempt and Kansas City had a breath -- and a valuable draw heading to Costa Rica for the second leg.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Deportivo Saprissa vs. Kansas City Wizards
March 09, 2005 -- Arrowhead Stadium
Deportivo Saprissa -- Francisco Porras, Jervis Drummond, Gabriel Badilla, Victor Cordero, Ronald Gonzalez, Jose Pablo Fonseca, Alonso Solis (Jose Luis Lopez 78), Walter Centeno (Francisco Alfaro 86), Wilson Munoz (Christian Bolanos 69), Saul Phillip, Ronald Gomez.
Substitutes Not Used: Erick Corrales, Gerald Drummond, Juan Esquivel, Fausto Gonzalez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Ronald Gomez 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Ronald Gomez 2); FOULS: 13 (Ronald Gonzalez 3); OFFSIDES: 6 (Ronald Gomez 3); CORNER KICKS: 3 (3 tied with 1); SAVES: 2 (Francisco Porras 2)
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Alex Zotinca (Diego Walsh 80), Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Chris Klein, Diego Gutierrez (Khari Stephenson 89), Kerry Zavagnin, Sasha Victorine (Jack Jewsbury 71), Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
Substitutes Not Used: Dustin Branan, Will Hesmer, Brian Roberts, Shavar Thomas.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Davy Arnaud 3, Chris Klein 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Davy Arnaud 1, Josh Wolff 1); FOULS: 15 (Jose Burciaga Jr. 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 6 (Chris Klein 3); SAVES: 3 (Bo Oshoniyi 3)
KC -- Kerry Zavagnin (caution; Professional Foul) 75
DEP -- Saul Phillip (caution; Reckless Foul) 78
DEP -- Jervis Drummond (caution; Pushing, Holding) 90
Referee: Gilberto Alcala
Referee's Assistants: -George Gansner; Steven Davidson
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Time of Game: 1:53
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.