KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- As the Wizards current winless streak slowly ballooned to nine games, the pressure to perform steadily grew along with it.
In the aftermath of each missed opportunity, the swagger Kansas City started the season with faded little by little, leaving the team searching for a remedy to its slide from early contender to also-ran.
With another tough match Saturday against Toronto FC threatening to make it an even 10 matches without a victory, Kansas City hope that an early goal can help shift the pressure onto Toronto’s shoulders and help restore some of the magic that propelled the Wizards to a quick start.
“That’s the confidence we need,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “To get a goal and to protect it instead of always hunting and hunting and hunting.”
And hunt the Wizards have.
After jumping on D.C. United and the Colorado Rapid, the club’s lone victories of 2010, Kansas City have lost five of seven and conceded first in six of those matches. The other? A nil-nil draw against the Galaxy.
The statistics don’t lie. Teams that score first have won nearly 80 percent of the time (61-5-12 overall) this season in MLS and rarely walk away without at least a draw. That stat is something that hasn’t escaped head coach Peter Vermes.
“[An early goal] would let us drive the game,” Vermes said. “You can almost --I don’t want to say sit back--, but you can take a breath and let the other team come. And as they come, then we can really use our weapons.”
In other words, the Wizards could “hunt” when it made sense and let the pressure of an early deficit weight on their opponent’s minds when it’s time to sit back and defend.
Of course, theory and practice are two different things. TFC certainly won’t be easy to breakdown or keep off the scoreboard, and the odds are stacked in its favor.
The Reds are on a six-game unbeaten streak, not to mention the fact that TFC are 4-0-0 at BMO field this season, allowing only two goals while scoring nine.
Kansas City, on the other hand, will be without suspended captain Davy Arnaud and even a draw would give the Wizards their first road result this season.
“For us, it’s not so much a matter of Toronto being hot and undefeated at home,” midfielder Jack Jewsbury said, “it’s about worrying about what we do, being tough and being aware of their game-changer, [Dwayne] De Rosario.”
But no matter the final result, both sides understand how important the first goal will be --even if they are at opposite ends of the momentum spectrum.
As the statistics show, the result will more than likely ride on it.
“You work hard every week to get a good result on the weekend, and you get a knockdown,” Nielsen said. “We have a great team, we just need the confidence and we need to score the first goal now.”