Three goals by three different players -- all coming from width -- gave the Kansas City Wizards a magical beginning to the 2005 MLS season as they claimed a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Rapids in their home opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
Josh Wolff and Jack Jewsbury gave the Wizards a 2-0 lead, then after Jeff Cunningham pulled a goal back for the Rapids, Chris Klein again extended the lead that made a late Rapids goal all but inconsequential.
Early on the Rapids were able to expose the Wizards and gain two half-chances. But the Wizards gave a glimpse of what was to come in the sixth minute as Wolff played the ball wide right for Klein. Klein whipped in a low cross from outside the penalty area that a sliding Davy Arnaud narrowly missed connecting with.
Then, in successive minutes, the Wizards threatened when sloppy Rapids' play in the back afforded them several clear chances. In the 11th minute, Klein stole a ball left loose by defender Guy Melamed at the top of the Rapids' box and let fly an on-target shot that 'keeper Joe Cannon was able to block away.
The ball fell kindly to midfielder Jewsbury whose shot seemed destined for the net when Hunter Freeman threw his body down near the goal line to block the steamroller. A careless Nat Borchers then mishandled a ball in the box that Davy Arnaud pounced on but was also unable to beat Cannon.
The Rapids just missing getting on the scoresheet first in the 34th minute as Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni found forward Wolde Harris through a long chip. Harris, with Garcia closing, drove a right-footed strike bound for the left corner of the Wizards' goal but it was prevented by Bo Oshoniyi's outstretched hand.
Seconds later from deep in the Wizards' end, Sasha Victorine sent a long ball over the top to Wolff who had gained separation from his marker. Wolff waited patiently as the ball bounced before readying a lethal shot that exploded past Cannon on the right and quickly found its way in the back of the net to give Wolff his first goal on the season and the Wizards the lead.
Fine play on the flank extended Kansas City's joy and doubled their lead in the 40th minute as Wolff sped in alone from the left and calmly played a smart ball for Arnaud waiting 10 yards off the far post. Arnaud's effort was thwarted but the rebound rolled for Jewsbury who made no mistake as he rippled the net with a low shot up the middle of the box
The Wizards began the second half continuing their lucrative work from the flanks as Jewsbury latched onto a ball loosed from a harassed Wolff on the left wing and fed an open Klein, and he quickly flicked the ball wider to Arnaud, but his stinging ball to the back post just missed connecting with Wolff.
Soon though, the Wizards field day would be over as Cunningham entered the match in the 54th minute. Ten seconds later Cunningham celebrated his first tally with the Rapids, rising six yards out from the far post to head in a well-placed cross from the right side through former Wizards winger Chris Henderson.
Not wanting to pack in the fun early, the Wizards countered off the wing again. Wolff shrugged off a bemused Borchers, who thought Wolff had committed a foul in battling for the ball, on the left side and quickly hit for a free Klein. Able to pick his spot, Klein drove the ball past the hapless Cannon into the left side of the goal to reinstate the Wizards' two-goal lead in the 61st minute.
Wizards' substitute Alex Zotinca nearly turned the match into a rout as he waltzed in on Cannon's left but saw his finessed shot knocked away. But all pretense of a smooth finish for Kansas City proved premature as a second former Wizards player took part in a Colorado score. After receiving from a ball from a central Alain Nkong that was slightly touched by midfielder Kyle Beckerman, Mark Chung pulled a goal back for the Rapids within one with a scorcher that passed a downed Oshoniyi to the left on its way to the net.
Yet the Wizards controlled the rest of the match and had held to christen their debut in the Eastern Conference with a win, spoiling the Colorado coaching debut of Fernando Clavijo.
The Wizards next take a week off, returning to action on April 16 when they travel to Giants Stadium to face the MetroStars. The Colorado Rapids begin the home portion of their season next week when they take on FC Dallas in Denver (7 p.m. MT).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Colorado Rapids (0-1-0) vs. Kansas City Wizards (1-0-0)
April 2, 2005 -- Arrowhead Stadium
KC -- Josh Wolff 1 (Sasha Victorine 1, Bo Oshoniyi 1) 34
KC -- Jack Jewsbury 1 (unassisted) 40
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 1 (Chris Henderson 1, Nat Borchers 1) 54
KC -- Chris Klein 1 (Josh Wolff 1) 61
COL -- Mark Chung 1 (Kyle Beckerman 1, Alain Nkong 1) 81
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Hunter Freeman, Nat Borchers, Guy Melamed, Ritchie Kotschau, Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Pablo Mastroeni (Alain Nkong 46), Martin Morales (Mark Chung 61), Jean Philippe Peguero (Jeff Cunningham 53), Wolde Harris.
Substitutes Not Used: Byron Foss, Luchi Gonzalez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Jean Philippe Peguero 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 23 (Wolde Harris 6); OFFSIDES: 4 (Jeff Cunningham 2, Chris Henderson 2); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Chris Henderson 4); SAVES: 9 (Joe Cannon 7)
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Jack Jewsbury (Alex Zotinca 70), Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Chris Klein (Scott Sealy 81), Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Sasha Victorine, Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud.
Substitutes Not Used: Dustin Branan, Will Hesmer, Preki, Brian Roberts, Khari Stephenson, Shavar Thomas, Diego Walsh.
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Davy Arnaud 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 12 (3 tied with 3); FOULS: 11 (Davy Arnaud 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Davy Arnaud 2, Chris Klein 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Chris Klein 2); SAVES: 1 (Bo Oshoniyi 1)
COL -- Nat Borchers (caution; Dissent) 61
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Roni Canales
Time of Game: 1:50
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.