The Kansas City Wizards saw their nine-game unbeaten run come to crashing half in their final game before the All-Star break, Amado Guevara's stunning free kick strike early in the second half giving the MetroStars a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night at Arrowhead Stadium and cementing their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference.
Cornell Glen's goal had given the visitors the lead midway through the first half, but Chris Klein equalized from the penalty spot just before halftime. Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker then saved a second penalty kick awarded to the Wizards on the night, before Guevara's free kick from just outside the area left Kansas City 'keeper Tony Meola rooted to his line.
Finding their rhythm against the disjointed Wizards, the MetroStars began to implement an effective game plan early in the match by sending in crosses seemingly at will as midfielders Joselito Vaca and Eddie Gaven found ample space on the wing and repeatedly combined with midfield maestro Guevara.
The Metros tactic nearly paid off at the 20th minute as Kansas City midfielder Kerry Zavagnin barely cleared a Mike Magee header from just outside the six-yard box off the goal line.
The inevitable came in the 23rd minute as striker John Wolyniec rounded Wizards central defender Jimmy Conrad on the right wing and sent in a low ball for an unmarked Glen. The Trinidad & Tobago international easily struck for his fourth goal of the season, neatly sidefooting home past 'keeper Meola in front of a backtracking Jack Jewsbury.
But Glen's goal awakened the Wizards lackluster attack and they began to direct the tempo. The change paid dividends in the 36th minute when Chris Klein played a sharp cross from the right flank into a cutting Arnaud. Center back Eddie Pope snagged Arnaud's jersey as he prepared to shoot and referee Michael Kennedy immediately whistled for the penalty. Klein stepped up and hit it low into the bottom right corner past a sprawling Walker for his fourth goal of 2004.
The pace quickened in the second half as each team attacked consistently and forcibly, and in the 51st minute, the Wizards found fortune as Klein again had space to serve into the box. Midfield mate Francisco Gomez latched on to the ball despite being fouled from behind by Metro back Tenywa Bonseu, and again Kennedy did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.
Klein again stepped to the spot, but this time Walker danced on his line and dove slightly to his right to save Klein's thigh-high effort and preserve the tie.
Seizing the momentum, the Metros urgently pushed up field, and then earned a quality chance through the crafty Glen in the 66th minute. After evading one defender, Glen was hacked down by Conrad at the left edge of the penalty box to line up a promising free kick right on the line.
Guevara took the chance well, curling a right-footed shot into the right upper corner of the goal past a helpless Meola for his ninth tally of the campaign, adding to his league-leading point total on the season.
The MetroStars head into the All-Star break winners of two in a row and with the undisputed lead in the East, and they next face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sun., Aug. 8 at Giants Stadium (6 p.m. ET). The Wizards head into break having missed on two chances to take over the lead in the Western Conference, and resume league play on August 14 against the San Jose Earthquakes, though they'll first take on the Dallas Burn in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Cornell Glen (MetroStars)