If it is true that defense wins championships, the Kansas City Wizards are peaking at the right time.
The Wizards defense is playing so well lately that even the question of who is minding the nets each night is not a worry, just as long as the offensive performance is good enough to get a goal.
Bo Oshoniyi returned to man the Wizards goal Saturday night in their 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids, once again standing in for the nursing Tony Meola and turned away five shots in recording his fourth shutout of the season in all competitions.
"I think defensively with the back four in front of me and [central midfielders] Kerry [Zavagnin] and Diego Gutierrez, we kind of have a good understanding," said Oshoniyi. "They're limiting teams to few chances and because of that we've been able to get shutouts."
Providing much of the Wizards attack on the night was another reserve in Diego Walsh. Playing wide on the right in midfield in his first significant minutes since Sept. 4, Walsh toyed with Rapids left back Antonio de la Torre from the outset, nearly scoring in the first minute as he beat de la Torre to the end line and whistled in a shot that Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon barely knocked away.
"I should have scored on that first shot I had. We should have taken care of things in the first half, but we got it done," said Walsh. The Wizards had five shots on goal in the first half, but netted only frustration.
"It's always a bit frustrating when you're playing really well and you have lots of opportunities and you don't put them away," Walsh said.
The Rapids created enough chances themselves through the diligence of forward John Spencer and wingers Chris Henderson and Mark Chung. And the longer the Wizards finishing floundered and Cannon continued to excel in goal, the more likely it seemed that the Rapids might be able to steal a victory.
But another Wizards part-time player pulled the plug on that possibility.
Igor Simutenkov came on in the 54th minute for the fatiguing Walsh and scored on a one-two with striker Josh Wolff only 49 seconds later. The hero of Wednesday night's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory was the charm again as he took the return pass from Wolff and tucked the ball neatly into Cannon's lower right corner.
The Wizards had found relief, but they soon exhaled the sigh of a reprieve as Spencer found space in the Wizards area and fired a shot that Oshoniyi barely got a hand to before it was swept away from danger.
"It was kind of a top spinning -- it picked up speed as it hit the ground," Oshoniyi said. "It was just one of those things where you have to move your feet and get enough on it. I was trying to push it around the post but left it there in front. Thank God Jimmy [Conrad] was there to clear it away."
Kansas City made Simutenkov's latest game-winner stand up and put themselves into the playoffs and in an enviable position as they head on the road for their next two games at Los Angeles and San Jose, two games that will determine their playoff seeding.
"Now we can kind of refine things and hopefully try to stay on top of the conference and get home field advantage for the playoffs," Oshoniyi said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.