The Kansas City Wizards showcased their solid team defending while counting on a Davy Arnaud strike in each half, knocking off the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 on Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium to win the Western Conference Championship and earn a place in MLS Cup 2004.
The Wizards earned the second trip to the MLS Cup Final in club history, looking to repeat their victory in MLS Cup 2000, when they beat the Chicago Fire.
The Western Conference top seed got goals from Arnaud on lethal quick strikes midway through each half in front of a rambunctious crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, controlling large portions of possession during the match.
Finding success through feeding forwards Arnaud and Josh Wolff, the Wizards earned the next three corners and the Galaxy's attention, nearly gaining the upper hand in minute 19 as Arnaud played for Wolff over the top, putting him in on L.A. goalkeeper Kevin Hartman at a sharp angle. Hartman arrived quickly at his near post to watch Wolff's blast screw high and wide.
But the Wizards would not be denied for long. Receiving a sharp pass from Arnaud, a centrally positioned Wolff found his touch in front of two Galaxy defenders as Arnaud ran on through.
A perfectly-weighted pass hit Arnaud in stride near the top of the box and his shot split Hartman's legs and found net in the 24th minute. The goal was Arnaud's first since Aug. 21.
From that moment, the match was a different animal as two minutes later fistacuffs nearly ensued. Wizards center back Jimmy Conrad and the Galaxy's Peter Vagenas went up for a 50/50 challenge that ended with Conrad recovering on the pitch.
Conrad's mates came to his aid and a fracas broke out. Order was restored as Vagenas saw yellow from referee Abbey Okulaja, but each penalty area encounter after involved a variety of tactical and theatrical pushing and shoving.
After the goal, the Galaxy didn't have much of an answer, as first Kerry Zavagnin then Jack Jewsbury tested Hartman with angled drives, the L.A. netminder doing especially to just get a hand to Jewsbury's shot that nearly wrong-footed him.
The only chance came on a quick counterattack which saw Jovan Kirovski well placed, but he hit a tame shot right into Bo Oshoniyi, once again starting in place of Tony Meola, who not available for duty on the night, still suffering from an Achilles injury.
The second frame began with a start as the Wizards attacked down the right flank from an Oshoniyi outlet to right back Alex Zotinca. The ball found its way to Wolff, who set off on a diagonal run before putting midfielder Diego Gutierrez in on Hartman, only to see his near-post effort smothered.
The Galaxy were able to keep the match close thanks to Hartman, but were sputtering on attack as Kansas City center midfielders Zavagnin and Gutierrez halted attack after attack, cutting off passes in the midfield and seemingly swarming in on all possessions the Galaxy put together.
Hoping to bring some continuity to the Galaxy attack, Andreas Herzog entered the fray in the 59th minute for Cobi Jones -- still seemingly slowed by a heel injury.
But The Wizards remained dangerous and capitalized on the Galaxy's forward push 10 minutes later. Some 25 yards out, Zotinca found time on the right side of the Galaxy box, spied Arnaud making a run behind the defense and coolly played into his path.
Arnaud rounded the on-rushing Hartman and shot from an acute angle. Hurrying back, center back Danny Califf tried in vain to clear the ball off the line, but it wasn't enough to keep Arnaud's second out and making the way clear for the Wizards to tuck away the triumph.
The Galaxy nearly got on the board in the 73rd minute as an attempt whisked by the post to the left of Oshoniyi. But their fate had been already been determined, once again losing out on an opportunity to play an MLS Cup Final on their own field.
The Wizards will learn their MLS Cup Final opponent Saturday night, when D.C. United plays host to the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium (7 p.m. ET). MLS Cup 2004 will be played on Sun., Nov. 14, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET, televised by ABC Sports.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards)
Los Angeles Galaxy (1-2-0) vs. Kansas City Wizards (2-1-0)
Western Conference Final
November 05, 2004 -- Arrowhead Stadium
KC -- Davy Arnaud 1 (Josh Wolff 1) 24
KC -- Davy Arnaud 2 (Alex Zotinca 1) 69
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Danny Califf (Alejandro Moreno 78), Tyrone Marshall, Paul Broome, Cobi Jones (Andreas Herzog 59), Marcelo Saragosa (Arturo Torres 62), Peter Vagenas, Sasha Victorine, Jovan Kirovski, Carlos Ruiz.
Substitutes Not Used: Dan Popik, Ryan Suarez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Jovan Kirovski 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Carlos Ruiz 2); FOULS: 17 (Carlos Ruiz 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Carlos Ruiz 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jovan Kirovski 4); SAVES: 4 (Kevin Hartman 4)
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Alex Zotinca, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Khari Stephenson (Taylor Graham 59), Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Jack Jewsbury, Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud.
Substitutes Not Used: Justin Detter, Francisco Gomez, Will Hesmer, Brian Roberts, Igor Simutenkov, Matt Taylor, Shavar Thomas, Diego Walsh.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Davy Arnaud 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Davy Arnaud 2); FOULS: 19 (3 tied with 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (Josh Wolff 2); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jose Burciaga Jr. 3); SAVES: 3 (Bo Oshoniyi 3)
LA -- Peter Vagenas (caution; Reckless Foul) 26
KC -- Jose Burciaga Jr. (caution; Delaying a Restart) 41
KC -- Alex Zotinca (caution; Game Disrepute) 72
LA -- Paul Broome (caution; Game Disrepute) 72
LA -- Andreas Herzog (caution; Tackle from Behind) 83
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Michael Kennedy
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-58-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.