Kansas City Wizards head coach Bob Gansler has been tutoring his team on finishing out matches this week in preparation for Saturday's afternoon matchup with the San Jose Earthquakes.
"We've piddled some points away on the road, but especially at home. That's something we're addressing," said the Wizards head man.
Earning only one point in the last two home games is not ruling the roost for certain; it's more like letting the chicken out of the bag.
The Wizards led the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 with 20 minutes left on July 24, only to let them possess the ball almost continuously in the closing minutes, leading to a Tyrone Marshall score that evened matters in the end and kept the Galaxy as the top bird in the West. Then, on July 28, the MetroStars plucked the Wizards 2-1 as Kansas City failed to produce quality chances in the run of play, paying dearly when Amado Guevara struck a brilliant 18-yard free kick for the win.
Gansler is making sure the Wizards understand the key to putting teams away.
"It's called finishing a game," Gansler said. "We've got to see what's there; we've got to take better care of the ball."
Before anyone dare label Gansler "Bunker Bob", as he is periodically known in soccer forums, he went on.
"As the clock winds down, if your only answer to close out the game is to defend, you're playing Russian roulette," he said. "The best way to finish the game is for you to have the ball in dangerous positions so that they have to defend a possible other score. That's what we were working on today, and we're working on tomorrow, and the next day."
Timely then are the returns of veterans Igor Simutenkov and Preki, both who know how to make the ball work for them.
"They're experienced players. When the clock's ticking down, what do you think is a greater asset, young, beautiful exuberance, bravado, kamikaze?" Gansler asked. "No, it's not. It's the guys who have been there before and make, by and large, the better decisions. It's the mind over the physical. It's experience over exuberance."
Expect to see Simutenkov help the Wizards keep possession and create chances come Saturday against the always formidable Earthquakes, perhaps playing elsewhere than forward. However, the wily Preki will likely not see action until next week.
By then, Gansler hopes the Wizards will have learned their lesson.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.