MLSsoccer.com will break down the Wizards’ season in three-match blocks during the Major League Soccer regular season. Consider it 10 quick glimpses into Kansas City’s season, each of which will play a critical role in the team’s quest to return to the playoffs.
Fourth in the Eastern Conference (7-9-5, 26 points)
Last three results
1-0 defeat on August 14 at San Jose Earthquakes [Watch highlights]
4-1 victory on August 21 vs. New England Revolution [Watch highlights]
2-0 victory on August 28 at Los Angeles Galaxy [Watch highlights]
Next three matches
September 4 at Philadelphia Union (5-11-5, 20 points)
September 19 at Chivas USA (6-11-4, 22 points)
September 22 vs. Houston Dynamo (6-11-5, 23 points)
Player to remember: forward Kei Kamara
In a pivotal season career-wise, Kamara (one goal, three assists in last three games) has emerged as the Wizards most potent scoring threat, marauding up and down the right flank to the tune of eight goals thus far this season.
Against the Revolution and Galaxy, the forward also showcased an emerging part of his game by dishing out his first three assists of the season.
Those performances, along with his solid play over the course of the season, helped earn Kamara a call up to the Sierra Leone National Team for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Cairo this weekend, meaning he will miss the Wizards’ match against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Player to watch: midfielder Davy Arnaud[inline_node:307479]
Arnaud seems to have found his top form after an see-saw season.
His goal against the Galaxy was expertly taken, and the captain’s constant hustle and commitment on the defensive side of the ball goes a long way toward creating the high pressure manager Peter Vermes demands.
With Kamara away on national-team duty this weekend, Arnaud will be looked upon to help pick up the offensive slack. If he can continue doing what he’s done over the past two months, that shouldn’t be an issue for the Wizards.
Three things that went right
1) Just about everything but the loss in San Jose.
Had someone offered Vermes six points from these three games, he probably would have taken them without a second thought.
The Wizards dominated the Revolution in a must-win game for both sides, finding another forward option in Birahim Diop and their offensive swagger in the process. They followed that up with an even more impressive victory in Los Angeles, handing the league’s top team a comprehensive 2-0 defeat.
Both games kept Kansas City’s playoff hopes intact for the time being. Vermes’ team will have to continue playing at this level for it to mean much at the end of the year, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
2) Birahim Diop’s emergence from unknown quantity to contributor.[inline_node:316737]
Diop hadn’t even registered a shot on goal in his MLS career before August 21. The fact that he then scored on his first two makes his performance against the Revolution (two goals and one assist) even more amazing.
It’s hard not to feel happy for the 31-year-old forward after the trials and tribulations he has encountered as a professional soccer player. Diop finally feels as though his skills have been validated in MLS, and Kansas City get another in-form attacker to throw into the mix.
3) Team signs first Homegrown Player
Kansas City capped a successful August by signing academy goalkeeper Jonathan Kempin as their first Homegrown Player.
Just 17 years old, Kempin spent two semesters in Bradenton, Fla., as part of the US Soccer Under-17 Residency Program and showed considerable poise in a trial with the team a few weeks ago.
He won’t compete with Jimmy Nielsen for playing time immediately, but the Wizards are overjoyed to bring Kempin into the fold this early in his career.
One thing that went wrong
1) Losing in San Jose
Dropping a 1-0 result to the Earthquakes wasn’t the end of the Wizards' playoff hopes, but it was frustrating considering all the chances they squandered.
Kansas City certainly should have walked away with at least a point from this game, and Vermes said as much after the game. If the team misses the playoffs, this will be one of the games it looks back on with some regret.
The Wizards have what appear to be three winnable games coming up, but Vermes and his players know better than to take anything for granted at this point.
Philadelphia are playing with confidence despite languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, as proven by their rousing comeback victory against New England last weekend. Houston are never an easy out, even with the game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, and Chivas USA can draw on their 2-0 victory against the Wizards in July.
Still, Kansas City need seven points at the very least from these games to realistically believe the playoffs are within reach. Judging by the team’s recent results (4-1-2 over the last seven games), that’s definitely possible, even though it’s a difficult proposition.