KANSAS CITY, Kan. – This was supposed to be the game the Wizards bounced back, the match they shed a five-game winless streak and reasserted themselves against one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.
Instead, it was more of the same old, same old.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Despite being largely outplayed, the Columbus Crew snatched a goal from second-half corner kick and hung on for a 1-0 victory and all three points on Sunday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Suddenly that April 13 victory against Colorado – the club’s last win of what began as such a promising season - seems like a long, long time ago.
“I am very frustrated,” manager Peter Vermes said. “I am, I know the rest of the staff is and I know the players are. There are a lot of games where have played well. We just haven’t gotten it.”
And even though the Wizards outshot their opponents 18 to 7, hit the post and generally bossed open play, they couldn’t find a way to walk away with the points on Sunday and lost their unblemished home record in the process.
Once again, 90 minutes of effort didn’t result in a goal and the winless streak is now at six matches, during which Kansas City has been shutout four times and scored only three goals.
“It seems like it’s the same story,” the Wizards’ Davy Arnaud said. “We create the chances, and we’re hitting the post or just missing wide.”
Columbus, on the other hand, came to CAB looking to be as patient as possible, sit back on defense and wait for opportunities to attack on the counter or via long balls to forward Steven Lenhart.
That strategy didn’t yield too many opportunities from open play, but it kept Kansas City, and the game itself, from developing any discernable rhythm. It also gave the Columbus the chance they needed to snatch the points.
Vermes started rookie forward Teal Bunbury for the first time this season in place of Josh Wolff, but even the presence of two powerful, dynamic players in Bunbury and Kei Kamara couldn’t deliver a lethal movement against a packed-in Crew defense.
The Wizards tested Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer from distance time after time through Graham Zusi and others, but the final movement eluded them against a resolute Crew back line.
“We needed to find a way to exploit them,” Bunbury said. “Once we see that’s happening, then we just have to find different routes and use different things to our strengths to dismantle them and find a way to score.”
The Crew, meanwhile, proved why they’ve won two consecutive Supporters' Shields and characteristically took advantage of the lone opportunity that fell to them.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto drove an in-swinging corner kick towards the front post in the 64th minute to sub Emilio Renteria, who came from the goal mouth to nod it into the top of the net and past the outstretched arms of Jimmy Nielsen.
“He put it in the room where it is very difficult to defend,” Nielsen said. “Too high for [Arnaud] in the first area, too low for me to come get and too short for [Jimmy Conrad].”
With that goal separating the two sides, Columbus extended their unbeaten streak against Kansas City to eight games, remained undefeated in 2010 and deprived the home team of yet another opportunity to halt its crippling slide.
“This was a big game for us,” Arnaud said. “Like I said, I think we are a better team than our record shows right now. But having said that, we have got to get results.”
Unfortunately for Kansas City, those results will have to come on the road, where the team has lost all three times this season. The Wizards travel to Salt Lake City to take on the defending MLS Cup champions next Saturday before going north of the border to play Toronto FC the following week.
And they’ll have to try to earn those results with the shadow of a six-game winless streak hampering their progress, and sending them further down the Eastern Conference standings.
“This is an opportunity lost,” Vermes said, “and now we’ve got to go steal something at somebody else’s place.”