With 10, the Kansas City Wizards had allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference going into Saturday night's tilt with the Houston Dynamo -- a team not known for its offensive prowess necessarily, but a team that, at plus-10, still boasted the best goal differential in Major League Soccer.
It meant in order to get a result against the best team in MLS, the Wizards would have to be nearly perfect. And while solid, the Wizards weren't quite to that nearly perfect level as the club fell to Houston, 1-0.
Kansas City threw virtually everything it had at the Dynamo -- set pieces, headers, shots from short range, others from long and good defense -- and Houston withstood the challenge while finding the game's lone goal by Kei Kamara in the 18th minute. It came, fittingly, after the Dynamo stood up to a pretty strong early Kansas City attack.
It was the type of performance one would expect from a club with the most wins in the league.
He was complimentary of the opponent afterward, but Wizards head coach Curt Onalfo believed, in certain aspects, his team was the better of the two despite the loss.
"It was a night where we had the better chances," Onalfo said. "I thought we performed better. Yet, the scoreline reads differently.
"They are an extremely tough team to play against. They don't give anything away. They fight their tails off, and the difference in the game was we gave them a pretty soft goal.
"Having said all that," Onalfo continued, "I thought we responded fine. We worked hard. The guys left it on the field, and that's when it's disappointing, when you feel like you performed well enough to get something out of it."
Overall, Kansas City found 15 shots against the Dynamo defense, but just three of those were on goal. Twice, Wizards shots were less than a ball's width wide of the net, and Josh Wolff's header in the 83rd minute bounced off the turf and appeared to be on its way to tying the game before ricocheting off the crossbar.
The majority of the shots came in the early part and then toward the end of the game as Houston was able to set back once it grabbed the lead.
"The other team dropped off," Onalfo said. "They got numbers behind the ball and made it tough on us. It's all part of the game. As the game pushed, they got a little bit tired, and we got more chances. We made some tactical changes that I thought helped us.
"We had two clear chances. When you make those adjustments and you have those chances, you figure you bury one, and you walk away with a point. You're not happy still because you're at home and you want three, but under the circumstances, having given away a fairly early goal, you would have liked to put one of those away."
Had Kansas City been able to score, the story of the night would have been the solid defensive play by the Wizards. Defender Rauwshan McKenzie got the first start of his career and played the first MLS minutes of his career, filling in for Jimmy Conrad, who is with the United States national team along with midfielder Davy Arnaud.
Kamara's goal came on a header as the 6-foot-3 forward was able to get above McKenzie, who is listed as two inches shorter.
"I just thought it was a really good ball," McKenzie said. "I thought I was in a really good spot, and I tried to flick it on. But, I just couldn't get to it."
McKenzie also said he felt the Wizards performance was a good one.
"I thought we played well defensively," McKenzie said. "We didn't give them too much besides the goal. All around, I thought, as a team, we played well defensively, and when we get help from the front line, that's a big help for us in the back."
Onalfo liked what he saw from McKenzie.
"He did a solid job," Onalfo said. "I thought he was very good on the night, and he's only going to get better."
Lance Watson, who, at right back, has been a season-long part of Kansas City's stingy defense, also felt his team's effort was a strong one, though disappointment was still evident in the defender's voice.
"Yeah, I thought we had a pretty decent night defensively," Watson said. "We only gave up maybe one or two solid chances, and they were fortunate enough to put one away.
"That's what Houston's good at. We know that they've been able to take their chances this year and put them away. The rest of the game, they just kind of sat back and made it hard for us."
Curtis Kitchen is a contributor to MLSnet.com.