All apologies to the Los Angeles Galaxy, but the Kansas City Wizards don't care to concern themselves much with their guests in the build-up to Saturday evening's match at Arrowhead Stadium.
It's no matter that the Galaxy showed signs of life on the road, winning two road contests on their recent five-game road swing (and finally one away from Southern California) to run their season total to three.
And it doesn't matter that the Galaxy defeated the Minnesota Thunder 5-2 Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal at The Home Depot Center, the same Thunder that ended the Wizards' attempt at repeating as the tournament champions with a 3-1 win on Aug. 24 in K.C.'s own backyard.
"You need to be aware of the opponent -- you need to respect the opponent, but you certainly cannot fear them," said Wizards head coach Bob Gansler.
But the Wizards' first focus is on themselves and eradicating some disturbing trends before they become habits. In the recently completed home-and-home series with the MetroStars, they twice committed the cardinal sin of fouling near their own box in the late stages of a half or match.
"You don't want to give away goals, that's for sure," said Gansler.
On Sept. 3 at Giants Stadium, after regaining the lead, the Wizards committed a foul two minutes from the end that forward Ante Razov blistered into the net from the top right of the Wizards penalty area to gain a 2-2 tie.
"[Razov] smoked it. The next 60 times he hits that one, it doesn't go in that spot. It was a big shot and you chalk it up to their good play rather than your deficient play," Gansler said.
Then Saturday, on their home ground in the 44th minute, an unfortunate foul led to the MetroStars' only goal. The service in was sent back to Eddie Gaven, whose deflected shot left K.C. goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi on the opposite side of the goal as it rolled in.
Gansler focused more on how the set piece was defended than the actual foul in his assessment.
"We didn't come out quickly enough in order to give Bo more of the box to look at. Everyone needs to push towards the ball and also keep track of their people. Bo had it sighted, and if it doesn't touch anybody, it's a save," he said. "Those are little details of attentiveness that we have to be sharper on. Is that a huge worry? No. Are we going to do better? Of course."
But there is another category of foul play that has especially polluted the Wizards performances at home lately -- the failed finish. Despite firing for goal 28 times combined against Columbus three weeks ago and the MetroStars, the Wizards were twice shut out and suffered dual 1-0 losses.
Of the 17 shots last weekend, Gansler said, "We needed to be more accurate, more precise, and sometimes more determined because we passed on some shots. At halftime, we talked about at least three or four shots that were there where we passed the ball -- passed the responsibility -- or tried to set up the perfect shot."
At least Josh Wolff and Scott Sealy up top, Chris Klein and Davy Arnaud from wide positions and Sasha Victorine in central midfield are creating.
"We need to do more of the same as far as having the ball and moving it and creating opportunities, but we need to be a lot better in terms of completing the mission the way we put the ball on net," Gansler said. "We worked on it this morning, we'll work on it tomorrow, we'll work on it the next day. And by the weekend, you hope that you have it right."
Gansler's boys will have to have it right as an in-form Galaxy, led by strikers Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez, who have a combined 18 goals on the season, come to town. In their last meeting, the Wizards defeated the Galaxy at Arrowhead 2-0 in last season's Western Conference Championship for the right to play in MLS Cup 2004.
"We're not chopped liver. We've scored a few goals and we need to do more of that," Gansler said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.