KANSAS CITY, Kan. – San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski took the lead in the MLS Golden Boot race but it was Kansas City Wizards striker Birahim Diop who was the scoring star with a hat trick as the Wizards closed out their three-year stay at CommunityAmerica Ballpark with a 4-1 victory in the regular season finale for both clubs on Saturday night.
With two goals on either side of halftime, Diop got the home team out to a 2-0 lead but Wondolowski netted his league-leading 18th of the season on a clinical finish with 20 minutes remaining. Diop would restore KC's two-goal advantage before an own goal rounded out the final score.
After suffering playoff elimination last weekend, the Wizards (11-13-6) fielded a lineup mixed with regulars and reserves, including backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg making his first career start, while the playoff-bound Earthquakes (13-9-7) trotted out a full-strength side as they played for postseason seeding.
With Colorado’s tie against Real Salt Lake, San Jose finished the season as the eighth playoff seed and will face off against the New York Red Bulls, who captured the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Aside from two Graham Zusi efforts, including one that struck the crossbar after two minutes, the match was a physical, compact game on CAB’s tight field with few scoring opportunities in the first half until Diop's first strike in the 36th minute.
Right back Jonathan Leathers drove a hopeful ball from inside the Wizards' half towards the top of the penalty area with Diop in pursuit. On the edge of the San Jose offside trap, the forward beat charging Jon Busch to the ball, heading it over the 'keeper into an empty net.
Just minutes later, Diop nearly snatched a second when Zusi’s cross was deflected to his feet, but Busch made an impressive diving stop to parry the shot out of bounds for a corner kick.
Fifteen minutes after the halftime break, another deflection found Diop ready in the penalty area and the Senegalese forward made it 2-0, netting his fourth of the year after Roger Espinoza’s cross was deflected into his path by substitute Ramiro Corrales.
Down two and held in check for most of the game, the Earthquakes added another forward into the match and pulled one back in the 70th minute when Wondowlowski side-footed the ball past a helpless Kronberg from a Geovanni cross. Wondolowski's 18 goals are one better than the LA Galaxy's Edson Buddle, who is expected to feature for his club on Sunday night against FC Dallas in the final match of the 2010 regular season.
But once again it was Diop who responded, striking a rasping half-volley from 22 yards that dipped under the crossbar at the last second to give the 31-year-old his hat trick and second multi-goal game of the season.
Kansas City tacked on a fourth from an own goal in second-half stoppage time when San Jose's Eduardo redirected the ball into his own net.
While the Wizards next look forward to moving into a new soccer-specific stadium in 2011 bolstered by new Designated Player Omar Bravo, the Earthquakes will look ahead to a first-round playoff date against the Red Bulls.
KC -- Birahim Diop 3 (Jonathan Leathers 1) 36
KC -- Birahim Diop 4 (unassisted) 60
SJ -- Chris Wondolowski 18 (Geovanni 3, Ryan Johnson 8) 70
KC -- Birahim Diop 5 (Craig Rocastle 3) 76
KC -- own goal (Eduardo) 92+
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Busch, Chris Leitch (Ramiro Corrales 46), Brandon McDonald, Jason Hernandez, Tim Ward, Chris Wondolowski, Sam Cronin (Eduardo 83), Khari Stephenson (Scott Sealy 62), Bobby Convey, Geovanni, Ryan Johnson.
Substitutes Not Used: Arturo Alvarez, Steven Beitashour, Brad Ring, Brian Edwards.
Kansas City Wizards -- Eric Kronberg, Jonathan Leathers, Matt Besler, Shavar Thomas, Roger Espinoza, Korede Aiyegbusi (Craig Rocastle 46), Jack Jewsbury, Davy Arnaud (Kei Kamara 71), Chance Myers (Josh Wolff 74), Birahim Diop, Graham Zusi.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee's Assistants: James Conlee; Bill Dittmar
4th Official: Landis Wiley
Time of Game: 1:49
Weather: Cloudy and 69 degrees