Good performances have come easily to the Kansas City Wizards this season, but good results have not always followed.
The Wizards broke out of a five-game stretch without a victory last week and return to the time and place where the five-game stretch began when they play the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
It was against the Fire on May 6 at Arrowhead that the Wizards believed they played much better than the Fire, only to see the game end in a 1-1 draw.
The Wizards might bring a slightly different team against Chicago this time. Wizards coach Bob Gansler gave three players their first starting roles of the season last week in the game at Columbus. Goalkeeper Will Hesmer, defender Tyson Wahl and midfielder Lance Watson all made their first starts of the season in a 1-0 victory against the Columbus Crew.
Still, the Wizards kept one streak alive. The victory marked the ninth consecutive game in which they have scored just one goal.
The streak began before three Wizards players left to play for the United States in the World Cup. But Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff can be difference makers in a game.
Wahl said that only the results have been different, not how well the team has stayed together and played.
"The games we have been playing we have been playing really well," Wahl said. "We've been unlucky in a few situations. There are definitely some games since they have been gone that could have gone the other way. Saying that, those are three important players, obviously, so they would make a difference But you just have to mentally stay in it when things are not going your way."
Whether Gansler goes with the same lineup against the Fire is unknown. But all hands should be available to play. Defender Nick Garcia has a left adductor strain but is listed as probable for the game.
The Fire will have a different look to them from the May 6 game. Injuries will keep defender Jim Curtin, midfielder Diego Gutierrez and forward Chad Barrett out of the game while forward Chris Rolfe is listed as doubtful on the injury report.
"I'm sure they will be a different team from the one that I thought, even though we tied here (on May 6), I thought we were the better side," Gansler said.
When Chicago came to Kansas City on May 6, the Wizards were expecting a team that attacked with a short passing game.
"We know they like to play in short spaces and possess the ball," Wahl said. "We're just expecting them to do that and put some pressure on them and keep them from possessing the ball in our end."
But the Wizards are likely to face a lineup this time that includes forward Nate Jaqua. In the debut of Toyota Park, the Fire's new home, last week, Jaqua scored two goals in the Fire's 3-3 draw with New England.
"You don't necessarily free him with a short, short, short attack because he is one of the best guys in the air," Gansler said. "I'm sure there is a wing dimension now that they were not using at that time. For sure he will be out there and we have to be ready for that."
Robert Whitman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.