KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas City Wizards locker room was full of long faces Friday night after their 1-0 defeat by the Columbus Crew, following a difficult night of battling their opponents, a string of questionable decisions by referee Ben Jones and overcoming the fatigue of an Open Cup match two nights earlier.
"We all make mistakes, but tonight on two occasions I think [Jones] blew the whistle a little early - like when Kleiny (Chris Klein) had the breakaway and he called the foul," said left winger Davy Arnaud. "I think he was trying to protect Sasha [Victorine] and thought it was a bad foul, but if he had let the play go ..." Ultimately though, the onus on losing a chance to claim three points and move into the top spot in the Eastern Conference was put squarely on themselves.
"I could rant and rave about a lot of things. I could rant and rave about the man in the middle. I could rant and rave about the unsportsmanlike behavior of No. 26 for most of the game. I could certainly rant and rave about the schedule which forced us to play Wednesday night and again on Friday and on a rainy, knee deep field," said Kansas City boss Bob Gansler.
"There's all sorts of physiological reasons, but the bottom line is we didn't play well enough early enough in order to go and get that first goal." The Wizards felt they had won a penalty kick midway through the second half, when Crew defender Chad Marshall tackled Josh Wolff to the turf.
"I thought the PK was pretty clear cut. Josh did well and drew the foul," Arnaud said. "But we can't rely on that. We've got to be better and can't count on the referee to get it right. We still have to come out, and if we don't get a couple of goals, still find a way to win."
A paltry one shot on goal for each half pointed to offensive failings all game. More shots needed to test Crew 'keeper Jonny Walker and that final penetrating pass needed to be more accurate.
"Yeah, I don't think the final ball was there for us tonight," Arnaud said. "It got tougher as the game went on because they were dropping a little deeper. We had to start putting more long stuff into the box. [Columbus] does well with that with their big guys in the box."
And as much as it sounds as an excuse, fatigue eats at the quality of play more effectively than anything.
"This is a difficult game to play for 90-plus minutes when you have a weekend in between. For sure it's a hell of a thing to do when you've got 48 hours," Gansler said. "We also need to understand, and I think they do, we need to come out of the chute a little quicker, a little sharper, and get that first goal. And then the ball doesn't get tired and you're in charge.
"When you're tired, you cut corners ... Then you hope it's going to get there and you don't have to set the guy up," said Gansler. "That's human nature. For sure that happened to us today.
"Our guys know the [Crew] have absolutely nothing to lose. [The Columbus Crew] come and they just work their derrières off, and that's to their credit. There are some lessons we need to take out of this since we didn't take any points."
The Wizards will now have to recover without Josh Wolff, Kerry Zavagnin and Jimmy Conrad, who have been called into Bruce Arena's U.S. national team camp ahead of next Saturday's clash with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier.
Additionally, Scott Sealy has been called in for Trinidad and Tobago's meeting with Guatemala and Diego Gutierrez's successive yellow card cautions in the 88th minute for a reckless foul and dissent combined for a red card will force him to sit out the Wizards' next match, against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium next Saturday (Sept. 3).
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.