KANSAS CITY, Mo.
7:30 pm CT (no TV)
It's another top-of-the-table clash at Arrowhead Stadium, but the three points on offer are perhaps more valuable to the visiting Colorado Rapids, who have one fewer game remaining than the remainder of the Western Conference. The home-standing Kansas City Wizards lead the West and the race for the Supporters Shield, having on Wednesday claimed another honor in winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history. The Wizards can also guarantee a playoff berth with a victory, along with a tie or loss by either Dallas or San Jose.
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Favio Tovar; 4th: Erich Simmons
MLS Career: 22 games; FC/gm: 32.1; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 2; pens: 8
Games involving Wizards: P3 W1 L1 T1; FC/gm: 31.0; Y/gm: 2.7; R: 1; pens: 0
Games involving Rapids: P4 W1 L2 T1; FC/gm: 32.3; Y/gm: 4.5; R: 0; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MD Chris Klein (L knee torn ACL); MD Preki (L ankle surgery): QUESTIONABLE: FW Igor Simutenkov (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: GK Tony Meola (R Achilles tendon strain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MD Darryl Powell (R knee sprain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DF Gary Sullivan (L lower leg); DOUBTFUL: DF Joey DiGiamarino (L groin); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP); Antonio de la Torre (20 CP); Kyle Beckerman (17 CP); Pablo Mastroeni (16 CP)
ALL-TIME (34 meetings): Wizards 15 wins (1 shootout), 62 goals ... Rapids 13 wins (3 shootout), 46 goals ... 6 draws
IN KANSAS CITY (16 meetings): Wizards 11 wins (0 shootout), 38 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 16 goals ... 2 draws
The two clubs meet for the fourth and final league encounter this season, two weeks after the Rapids claimed a 3-1 victory in Denver. The Wizards had won both previous meetings this season, not having conceded a goal in either game, winning once on each club's ground - the win in Denver the only home loss of the season for the Rapids.
On Sept. 10, the Rapids were once again saved by goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who saved a potential late equalizer from the spot as the Rapids extended their home undefeated run to eight matches.
Josh Wolff gave the Wizards an 11th-minute lead from the penalty spot after Cannon tripped him up in the area after the Kansas City striker chased down a long ball played over the top, but Mark Chung equalized with a penalty after Jean-Philippe Peguero was bundled over in the box (24).
Jordan Cila then gave the home side the lead on the hour, coolly slotting home after being picked out by Chris Henderson completely unmarked in the heart of the area.
But 10 minutes from time Wolff was again tripped by Cannon after racing alone into the area, yet this time the Rapids goalkeeper denied the U.S. international, diving to his right to parry Wolff's shot. Kyle Beckerman capped the scoring two minutes into stoppage time, curling home a shot from the left side of the area.
Here's Tim Hankinson's team (4-1-3-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre (Ricky Lewis 80), Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford - Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Henderson, Jordan Cila (Seth Trembly 80), Mark Chung - Jean-Philippe Peguero, John Spencer (Kyle Beckerman 87).
Here's Bob Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas (Francisco Gomez 46), Jose Burciaga Jr. - Taylor Graham (Diego Walsh 85), Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Matt Taylor (Igor Simutenkov 65) - Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff
The Wizards snatched the full three points with a late penalty kick for a 1-0 victory on June 9 in Denver. Josh Wolff netted the spot kick two minutes deep into second-half stoppage time, as the Wizards ended the Rapids' MLS-record 16-match unbeaten streak at home.
Chris Klein split a pair of defenders with a through ball for Wolff and the U.S. international was brought down by defender Nat Borchers. Referee Andrew Chapin - running the center for the first time in an MLS match - immediately whistled the penalty and sent off Borchers. Wolff took his own penalty, blasting it down the center of the goal past Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon for his fourth goal of the season.
On May 1, the Wizards defeated the Rapids 2-0 at Arrowhead Stadium despite playing a man down for more than a half.
Jose Burciaga Jr. was sent off just before the halftime interval as he made his first MLS start in nearly a year after undergoing knee surgery. But Davy Arnaud's cross found Chris Klein in the 64th minute, his shot taking a deflection off a defender to give the Wizards the lead, then Diego Gutierrez made a rampaging run down the left flank before finding an unmarked Wolff, who calmly slotted home six minutes from time.
A year ago in league play, the Rapids won twice and the Wizards once, with one meeting ending in a draw, and only the home team winning.
The Rapids won on July 4 in Denver in dramatic fashion before another huge Independence Day crowd (Spencer 44 pen, Chung 77, 92+ - Preki 23, Armstrong 91+), the teams then playing to a equally dramatic 2-2 draw in Kansas City on Aug. 22 (Arnaud 1, Preki 93+ - Henderson 29, Spencer 41).
The Rapids won again, 1-0 at home on Sept. 13 (Spencer 83), before the Wizards won at home 4-2 on Oct. 4 (Conrad 15; Klein 21, 82; Gomez 91+ - Roberts 47, Henderson 60).
The teams then met in the Western Conference semifinals, the Wizards winning 3-1 on aggregate. They played to a 1-1 draw in Denver in the first leg (Borchers 53 - Harris 3), before Kansas City advanced with a 2-0 home victory in the second leg (Simutenkov 47+; Klein 63).
The Rapids also eliminated the Wizards from the U.S. Open Cup when they faced each other in the third round a year ago, winning
The Rapids have won the season series each of the last two seasons, the Wizards winning the season series the two years before that. Twice a team has won all four yearly meetings - K.C. winning all four games in 1997 (one by shootout), Colorado all four in 1999 (three by shootout).
Preki is the Wizards all-time leader against the Rapids with 9 goals, 16 assists. Chris Klein is next among active players (fourth all-time for the club) with 7 goals, 3 assists. Josh Wolff has 8 goals, 2 assists for his career v Colorado - his first three goals with the Wizards coming in the three meetings this year. Diego Gutierrez also 7 assists - none while with K.C.
John Spencer leads the Rapids all-time performance with 8 goals, 3 assists. Chris Henderson has 6 goals, 6 assists - all but 1 assist while with Colorado. Mark Chung also 4 goals, 2 assists against one of his former teams - all while in Colorado.
Coaches record: Tim Hankinson vs. KC: P20 W5 L9 D6 ... Bob Gansler v COL: P21 W7 L8 T6
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Kansas City Wizards continued their recent up-and-down form, this time on the up as they answered a loss with a victory for the third consecutive time, a late goal giving them a 1-0 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Wizards took over the lead in the Western Conference and in the race for the MLS Supporters Shield, now with 41 points from 26 matches, two ahead of the Colorado Rapids and three ahead of Los Angeles Galaxy.
Diego Gutierrez scored a remarkable goal seven minutes from time for the match-winner. He started the play with a pass from well inside his own half, finding Davy Arnaud on the left touchline, who weaved his way forward before sliding a small square pass inside the restraining arc that Gutierrez sidefooted home past Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad and off the inside of his left-hand post.
"It was a play where I caught it on a break," Gutierrez said. "I played it forward and kept running. Davy dished a perfect pass to me, and I was able to finish. I knew it was on frame. The ball skipped a little on me. I was blessed enough that it went in."
The Wizards were saved in the first half in a wild sequence that saw Kerry Zavagnin twice clear balls off the line in short order from Troy Dayak, first turning aside his sharp downward header on a corner, then parrying the rebound stabbed goalward.
Wizards boss Bob Gansler made two changes to the team that lost 3-1 away to the Colorado Rapids the previous Friday. Jack Jewsbury and Alex Zotinca returned to the Kansas City midfield, replacing Matt Taylor and Shavar Thomas in the lineup, as Taylor Graham moved back to the right side of the back four.
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Taylor Graham (Francisco Gomez 78), Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Jack Jewsbury, Kerry Zavagnin, Alex Zotinca, Diego Gutierrez - Josh Wolff (Justin Detter 89), Davy Arnaud
"It's important to get our game flowing, steel up our defense, get a little more variety to our attack, and rev up our confidence," Gansler said. "We took a big step toward that."
Besides another late match-winner, Gutierrez had another reason to celebrate his goal. "(Today's) my seventh wedding anniversary," he said. "I wanted to make sure I dedicated that goal to (wife Ginna)."
With a victory against the Rapids, and a loss or a tie by EITHER Dallas or San Jose, the Wizards will clinch a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
On Wednesday, the Wizards won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history, defeating holders Chicago Fire on a golden goal from Igor Simutenkov five minutes into the extra-time period.
Simutenkov drilled a free kick from the right side through the wall, off 'keeper Henry Ring's hands, off the underside of the crossbar and back down into the goal for the game's only goal, the third major honor in club history (after the 2000 MLS Cup and Supporters Shield).
"It's a one-goal kind of situation," Gansler said. "We've rehearsed those games, not on purpose. We came through some, including the semifinal (1-0 over the San Jose Earthquakes). Through this run, we were the better side. I congratulate my team."
Gansler welcomed back Tony Meola to his first team in the match. Here's his lineup: Tony Meola, Alex Zotinca, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Francisco Gomez (Igor Simutenkov 46), Jack Jewsbury (Taylor Graham 68), Kerry Zavagnin, Diego Gutierrez, Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud
COLORADO RAPIDS The Revolution pulled themselves right back into the thick of the Eastern Conference dogfight with a club-record six goals in their drubbing of the league's best defensive club coming into the match having allowed less than a goal per game.
Steve Ralston, Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan each hit for two goals for the Rev, just the second time in league history one team has had three players hit for a brace in the same contest (Los Angeles v Colorado, May 6, 1998).
Amazingly, it was the Rapids who took the lead after 17 minutes, Jean-Philippe Peguero holding off a Revolution defender while running under a long lofted ball, eventually rounding 'keeper Matt Reis.
But the home side struck for four goals in 14 minutes, the first time they've ever hit for four goals in a half. Ralston started it off on 27 minutes, playing a nifty 1-2 on the edge of the box before hammering a drive off the foot of the post before tapping in his own rebound. Then a minute later, Twellman intercepted a poor pass and cut across the top of the area before beating Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon's dive.
Ralston then doubled the lead in the 36th minute when he converted from the penalty spot after Pablo Mastroeni was adjudged to have batted down a Noonan cross. Noonan himself then finished off the blitz after Ralston had done all the work with a slashing run on the left flank before pulling the ball back for the unmarked striker in the heart of the box.
Noonan completed his double nine minutes after the break when he blasted home a volley on the turn from a Brian Kamler cross, then Twellman finished off the six-pack with his second, sliding a shot home from close range after Felix Brillant's persistence set up the chance.
Said Cannon: "The sad part is that I think everyone in this locker room knew that was going to happen"That they're playing for their lives. We have to deal with that (stuff) better because every team we play now will be playing for their playoff lives."
Rapids coach Tim Hankinson made no changes to the team that defeated the Wizards 3-1 the previous Friday. Here's his team (4-1-3-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre (Ricky Lewis 64), Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford - Pablo Mastroeni (Kyle Beckerman 50) - Chris Henderson, Jordan Cila, Mark Chung - Jean-Philippe Peguero, John Spencer (Alberto Delgado 74)
"It's better to have your butt kicked," said Hankinson, "before the end of the season so that there's a fresh reminder of what a night like tonight feels like."
It will be another vitally important match for the Rapids, who have played one more game than every other team in the West. "It's not going to get any worse (this) week," said Cannon. "In a sense we hit rock bottom. We've been lucky this year, but we're going to come back from this. We have a good team. You know what? I hope the rest of the league takes us lightly because of this result because I think they'll be in for a surprise."
"This is a wake-up call," said Borchers. "Those guys were fighting for their (playoff) lives, and we think we're a first-place team. And we're not. We're not right now."
Peguero is still hampered by an abdominal strain that has kept him out of training this week. DiGiamarino is listed as suffering from a hamstring injury, but also said last week he suffered a concussion in training.
The Colorado Rapids suffered their heaviest defeat in more than four years, hammered 6-1 by the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. The loss dropped the Rapids out of the top spot in the Western Conference, now two points behind the Kansas City Wizards with 39 points from 27 matches, just a point ahead of third-place Los Angeles Galaxy.