Three points. That's all the Kansas City Wizards wanted from Saturday's home match against Real Salt Lake. Mission accomplished.
The 1-0 win was the result of an unrelenting intent to attack by the Wizards -- culminating in an RSL own goal -- and an ability to survive some early scares on defense.
Twenty-one shots were taken in vain by Kansas City in the face of a 4-5-1 formation employed by the visitors, but all that mattered was the one that went in from their constant pressure.
"We created some decent chances. In our psyche, we're worried about [scoring] a little bit and we're thinking about it too much," said Wizards head coach Curt Onalfo. "All I care about is the three points. ... We need to maximize points at home. I don't care if [the winning goal comes] in the 3rd minute or the 94th minute. We're extremely pleased with the three points, and we're going to build on it."
One had to have faith, as the Wizards seemed to be snake-bit. Chance after chance in the RSL box, many to forward Scott Sealy, went by the wayside. Ironically, despite the Wizards' 21 shots, RSL put more shots on goal (5-3). In the end, it was the constant threat of Claudio Lopez on the wing and the energy and skill brought on by the Wizards' three substitutes in the second half that made the difference.
"When you work hard, keep plugging away, and keep putting the ball in the right spots, good things happen," said Sealy.
Carlos Marinelli entered in the 68th minute, helping push his side to the next level.
"Carlos did extremely well as the game opened up. As soon as he got the ball, all of a sudden we created some chances and that's what great passers enable you to do," said Onalfo.
As the clock wound a minute shy of full time, substitute Ryan Pore drew a foul 20 yards out on the left wing after a quick exchange between left back Michael Harrington, Lopez and himself.
Davy Arnaud's ensuing free kick was placed just in front of the spot. Jimmy Conrad rose with RSL's Tony Beltran and a bit of magic took place as Beltran deposited the ball in the net over goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
"I clearly intimidated him with my presence. He's a fellow Bruin, and it's clear that he respects all alumni," joked the clearly happy Conrad.
But the incident wouldn't have much mattered if RSL had taken advantage of their chances, especially those in the first half. Forward Kenny Deucher proved to be more than a handful for Conrad and fellow center back Aaron Hohlbein as he broke through repeatedly.
"Deuchar's a big guy, and he does well at getting his body on you and holding you off the ball. He finds himself in good positions, and he got behind us a couple times. [Goalkeeper] Kevin [Hartman] came up big," said Hohlbein who thwarted more than one opportunity and helped Hartman gain his league-leading sixth shutout and league-leading 73rd of his career.
The Wizards' mission now continues, but things are looking brighter from the dire days of their now ended seven-game winless streak.
"We have a couple of games in hand, and all a sudden things look a lot better as we look at our July 4th game in Dallas," Onalfo said.
Arnaud put the mission in perspective. "What's important is next week and the next three points we are going to try and get."
Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.