and promising 23-year-old Jamaican central defender Shavar Thomas.
The addition of the 6-foot-1 Thomas brought with it the ability for the Wizards defense to go toe-to-toe with the speediest and most athletic attackers in the league -- and made Bob Gansler's team much more balanced overall.
Unfortunately for he and his teammates, Thomas suffered an ankle sprain June 26 at San Jose and had to be taken off after just 35 minutes.
Since then, the ankle and a red card suspension have forced Thomas to be in and out of the lineup, disrupting to the continuity of K.C.'s backline. After the completion of the All-Star break and the start of the final run toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, Thomas is looking to be fit for the balance of the season.
"[The ankle is] much better. I'm just trying to get back my sharpness from the start of the season," Thomas said. "I just want to finish the season playing even better. I should say I'm back to full fitness right now."
A fit and sharp Thomas can do much to dull potent attacks, but he attributes much of his effectiveness to his Wizards' teammates.
"I think the good thing coming in is that I'm playing with Jimmy Conrad and Tony Meola," said Thomas. "It couldn't get any better than that. The guys that I have playing around me are a major boost."
Thomas is fully aware that his squad is on a bit of a down slide, having twice failed in opportunities to take over the lead of the Western Conference and the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy, the first without Thomas in which the Wizards allowed the Galaxy to overturn a two-goal deficit with a pair of late goals. But with an enthusiastic Thomas in the mix, the Wizards lull shouldn't last long.
"Yeah, definitely, I'm looking forward to it [the rest of the season]. [I'm] also looking for the team to finish stronger, start playing better than what we've been doing," he said.
If Thomas' play does lift the Wizards, they could see him taken away by the Jamaican national team for World Cup qualifying. Thomas isn't betting on a call, but said, "I think I'm a part of the [player pool]. If they call me in, I'll be ready."
Thomas actually has two more weeks to completely heal, as the Wizards don't resume league play until Aug. 14, when they play host to the San Jose Earthquakes. But he'll have a chance to test things out for certain on Wednesday when Kansas City faces the Dallas Burn at home in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.