A compact defense bottled Kansas City's potent offense and Amado Guevara's pinpoint game-winning strike from a dead ball early in the second half earned the MetroStars a 2-1 victory that cemented their hold on first place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
Playing to the quick combinations of midfielders Guevara and Joselito Vaca and the strength of their forward line, the MetroStars were able to keep the potent Kansas City attack from gaining multiple chances while finding plenty of their own.
"It's important against K.C. to keep the ball and attack intelligently," said MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley. "I think our passing was good enough that we were able to open them up and create some chances. When we don't lose bad passes, that does a lot to shut down some of those counters."
After swerving in ball after ball from both wings and forcing Kansas City midfielder Kerry Zavagnin to clear a Mike Magee header off the goal line in the 20th minute, the energized Metro attack struck.
Striker John Wolyniec, despite Wizards central defender Jimmy Conrad marking him tightly, sent a cross in for an unmarked Cornell Glen. The Trinidad & Tobago international easily struck for his fourth goal of the season.
"I saw the space and the opportunity, so I just started screaming at the top of my lungs for the ball from John [Wolyniec]," Glen said. "I knew that once he got me the ball, that I had to put it away as simple as possible. So I just used the inside of my foot."
Playing rookie forward Justin Detter in place of injured forward Josh Wolff, who will also miss Saturday's MLS All-Star Game, the Wizards' attack seemed disjointed.
"We weren't able to hold the ball, move the ball the way that we usually do," said Kansas City boss Bob Gansler. "We had sufficient talent out there to do it, but we didn't get it done."
However, Glen's goal seemed to grab the Wizards attention as they looked to keep their nine-game undefeated streak intact. In the 36th minute, Chris Klein played a sharp cross from the right flank into a cutting Davy Arnaud, who was pulled back by Metro back Eddie Pope as he went to strike. Chris Klein stepped up and hit the resulting penalty low into the bottom right corner past a sprawling Jonny Walker for his fourth goal of 2004.
Yet despite the equalizer, the Wizards could not find a rhythm on attack. "I thought we found a track with about 20 minutes to go in the first half," Gansler said.
Instead it was the MetroStars who were able to operate more efficiently, proving that a best offense is often a good defense.
"I think that that pitch was a bit wide, and bigger than some of the other pitches that we play on," Glen said. "There was a lot of space behind the defense so we tried to use a lot of space, so that paid off really well for us.
As the second half began, the Wizards were given an opportunity to take the lead and erase some frustration. Klein lined up to take a second penalty after teammate Francisco Gomez was toppled in the box by Tenywa Bonseu. But Walker was up to the task as he parried Klein's effort.
That left it to an opportune Guevara to close out the night in the 66th minute. Glen darted his way to the edge of the area where Conrad disrupted his progress, and Guevara left no doubt as to his skill on the ensuing free kick, curling a right-footed shot that Meola could only watch pierce the upper corner of his net.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.