Perhaps in six weeks time, the Kansas City Wizards will look at Saturday's trying 1-1 tie with the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a soldout crowd at The Home Depot Center as an affirmation of their character and a confirmation of their possibilities.
To put it straight, the Wizards were on their heels in the first half Saturday and were on the verge of being routed by their archrivals. But the telling mark of a team is its level of fortitude, mental and intestinal, and the Wizards have both in abundance.
"It's perseverance to the fact that we know it is a 90-minute game no matter how you start, whether you go up a couple goals or go down a couple goals. We just keep fighting and keep pushing for 90 minutes, and usually when you do that, things go your way," said Wizards goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi, who staved off a possible avalanche of Galaxy goals by making a 15th-minute save on a Carlos Ruiz penalty attempt.
Oshoniyi's timely dive to his right was the result of clear thinking, although it was likely the most pressure-packed situation the long-time reserve has had to deal with in years.
"I know where he likes to go, even saying that, he can easily chip the ball down the middle or go the opposite way," said Oshoniyi of the Catch-22 of a 'keeper facing any penalty kick. "I just had to stand him up as long as I could. I think that's the key for a lot of guys taking PKs is that they wait for the goalkeeper to make a decision and they go the opposite way. And in that case, I just tried to stay up as long as I could. I just didn't sell myself out by going down too early."
Oshoniyi's stand not only temporarily took some air out of the Galaxy but resuscitated the smothered Wizards.
"I think it definitely woke us up a little bit. Just to get a PK call that early in the game was kind of shocking. We knew that we were in a game, a pressure filled game," said Oshoniyi.
Said left midfielder Diego Walsh: "That was huge for us because Bo kept us in the game."
Starting his second successive match after an extended period of relative on-field inactivity, Walsh did his best to balance L.A.'s dominance and keep his team within striking distance by endeavoring to threaten the Galaxy defense.
Yet as his team worked their way back in the match, it was Walsh's defensive miscue that enabled the home side to jump ahead on a 65th-minute header by Tyrone Marshall from a Jovan Kirovski corner kick that beat Walsh at the near post.
"The ball kind of took a weird turn," Walsh related. "I don't know what happened, but I definitely should have jumped for the ball. Marshall was there to put it in. But I should have jumped, and we should have played more aggressively, defended that more aggressively."
Marshall's goal may have sent a lesser side packing, but the Wizards used it to inspire them to pressure the Galaxy into a mistake of their own as substitute Matt Taylor combined with striker Josh Wolff on a quick one-two ending with Wolff crossing a ball that the Galaxy's Sasha Victorine turned into his own net.
The 1-1 result left the impression that the Wizards could withstand any onslaught and get a result. The attitude in the K.C. locker room afterwards was focused on the ultimate significance -- if that game was the first round of a playoff series, the away result would be great.
"That's where our mindset has to be now. We've got two games left in the season -- we have to take them like they are playoff games, especially on the road. You just don't want to lose on the road," said Oshoniyi.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.