Taylor Graham

K.C. may alter lineup in Open Cup

and allow some fatigued ones a rest in advance of Saturday's home match against Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Wizards have benefited from a consistent schedule this season virtually devoid of midweek matches, which has, in part, enabled them to perform at a high level throughout the year. Yet, the weekly routine and tight matches have still taken a toll as some players are fatigued and a bit banged up.

"We have some guys who are fatigued," Gansler said. "Jose (Burciaga Jr.) was taken out early in Dallas because he was just spent. We may give a guy or two a rest because of their cumulative minutes played this year."

In addition, center back Shavar Thomas, who has played the last two matches at less than 100 percent because of an ankle sprain, will likely not take the field in Atlanta.

Do not think that this means the Wizards are taking Tuesday's Open Cup match lightly. To the contrary, Gansler's approach reflects a desire to keep the Wizards current high run of form going.

"We've indicated to the boys that the best guys will be playing, especially those who have been playing well collectively," Gansler said.

Thus the starting 11 will likely include many of K.C.'s veteran players as they are more apt at keeping themselves fresh.

"The experienced ones have the knowledge to ration their strengths and be available at a good level," said Gansler.

As the Wizards head into the second half of the season competing for the top spot in the conference, having as many options available off the bench able to perform could make a large difference in their fate. And the test against the A-League Silverbacks is an opportune time for the Wizards to see how some candidates perform in a competitive atmosphere. Center back Taylor Graham and first-year forward Justin Detter are likely to be given minutes to prove their worth.

Graham has played well lately and can make a strong case to take the place of the suspended Thomas on Saturday when the Wizards look to overtake the Galaxy atop the West. Gansler also pointed out that Notre Dame grad Detter may have a chance to re-establish himself as a different kind of option up front for the already dynamic Wizards' attack, after an unfortunate string of setbacks.

"He provides strength and power in the air and can hold people off," Gansler said. "He runs well also. Actually he was one of our best players in preseason. He outperformed the other forwards but then got some injuries and fell behind."

If Graham and Detter can provide Gansler with some viable options off the bench, the rest of MLS may find it difficult to catch the Wizards during the season's home stretch.

Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.