After conceding two goals in the final quarter of the match, the Kansas City Wizards were left to rue a 2-2 tie with the Los Angeles Galaxy that felt more like a loss.
The two teams with the best records in Major League Soccer played a frantic first half on a chilly night in the Midwest. And after the break, it was only a matter of time before one team would break out.
First, Davy Arnaud scored in the 59th minute, then two minutes later, Jack Jewsbury sent a low shot that scooted under a helpless Galaxy defense and past frazzled 'keeper Kevin Hartman. Jewsbury had come on as a substitute just seven minutes earlier.
"Coach [Bob Gansler] told me to get some energy in there, so when I came in I wanted to be a sparkplug for the team," Jewsbury said.
Proving they can handle adversity, L.A.'s attack never relented. And the Galaxy struck back in the 67th minute when Cobi Jones sent a low cross racing towards Carlos Ruiz who screened his marker and dummied the ball for an unmarked Sasha Victorine who easily put the ball inside Tony Meola's far post to get Los Angeles back into the match.
Three minutes later, the passion of the match reached its peak as Jimmy Conrad fouled Ruiz at the top of the Wizards box. Conrad grabbed the ball and a tussle with Ruiz ensued that set off a series of scuffles. Once referee Hector Tobon and his assistants sorted it out, Ruiz was given the Galaxy's third yellow to match the Wizards count for the night.
"We have a lot of history with them, and you can have a lot of bad blood when that happens," said Wizards midfielder Chris Klein. "No hard feelings. A lot of it [comes from passion to win]. We're both at the top of the league and the blood rises. It's just natural."
Ruiz was a threat all night constantly finding space in the Wizards' penalty area. In the final 10 minutes of the match, he accounted for, at least in part, numerous forays on Meola's net. On one occasion Ruiz attempted the spectacular with a bicycle kick off a Jones cross, but it was easily saved by the Wizards 'keeper.
Unable to slow down the Galaxy barrage by holding the ball, the Wizards set themselves up for an unfortunate ending.
"When you go up 2-0, you'd like to keep the ball and dictate the pace," said Klein, "But we didn't close out the game."
Over the closing minutes, the Galaxy earned a number of corners. In the fifth minute after the full 90 minutes had ticked over, Andreas Herzog lined up for his 10th of the night. The attempt was put back into the left corner and Herzog bent the rebound back into the crowded area, finding Tyrone Marshall who would be the hero as he rose to meet the ball and send it past Meola to knot up the game and set off a Galaxy celebration.
"It's one of those games where you think you deserve to win. It's kind of a bittersweet game for us, it almost feels like a loss," Jewsbury said.
Added Klein: "We'll take a look at it and learn from it."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.