The first half for the Kansas City Wizards against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night was a familiar fright of poor finishing despite adequate chances. Made the worse by two defensive errors, the result was a 2-0 deficit at halftime and a realization that something must be done soon.
"We said together that we can't feel sorry for ourselves. Now we need to dig down deep and find a way to get it done tonight," said goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi.
Oshoniyi had seen the first Galaxy goal go by him in the 26th minute after poor marking in the box, then the second hit the back of the net 10 minutes later owing much to his own error.
"The second one was one of those where I hesitate to come, [so] then I came a little late. Me and Nicky [Garcia] stepped right into each other and [Herculez] Gomez heads it in," he said. "You make an error and it costs you a goal."
Clearly the soccer demons, first brought out by previous dual 1-0 losses at home, were circling ever closer to bring down a Wizards team who only a few weeks earlier had won four in a row and were hounding the New England Revolution for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Then Saturday, while the Wizards floundered, their closest rivals in the standings were flourishing. The team just behind them, the MetroStars, were coming from behind at home to claim three points and the team they were tied with at the night's outset, the Chicago Fire, were on their way to victory too.
"I felt like I was on the leader board of some golf tournament," said Josh Wolff. "I came out at halftime and every team in our [conference] was getting the result they needed to get. That certainly set the tone for what we had to provide in the second half."
Indeed, the Wizards returned to the field carrying a determined attitude to make a difference. A regular starter, but this time a second-half substitute for Jermaine Hue at left midfield, Davy Arnaud gave his side a longed for breath of life, but not until the 81st minute.
Positioned at the far post the fourth-year player headed down a Chris Klein cross into the Galaxy net past backup goalkeeper Steve Cronin for his fourth goal of the season.
"If you come off the bench you want to try and have an impact on the game," Arnaud said. "Kleiny whipped in a good ball to the back post, and I just tried to get there just in case it went past everybody."
The Wizards knew again that they could score at home and they increased their efforts.
"The first one rattled them a bit and if we kept at it we would get the second one," said Wolff, who tallied the all-important equalizer in the 86th minute after a Sasha Victorine shot banged off the crossbar.
"We don't give up many opportunities [at home], but for whatever reason they were able to find the back of the net -- good luck, good bounces, what have you. But tonight we were able to dig in. A point is a point, it's very important," Wolff said.
Wolff's floating, circling celebration after his eighth goal of the season was pure joy and excitement in action.
"It's about putting ourselves in a spot where we can get three points. The momentum was certainly going our way," he said. "I was just having fun out there. I haven't scored a lot at home lately."
The upbeat Wolff lauded his side, especially second-half substitutes Arnaud and Preki, who came on in the 65th minute.
"The second half is the way we need to play at home. Hands down, this was probably the best, most offensive all-out pressure we were able to put on for an entire half," he said. "It's something to build upon."
Oshoniyi made the two goals in five minutes stand up as he rushed out to make a save on Cobi Jones, bearing down on his goal all alone late in injury time.
"Now we expect to go out to L.A. and get the job down out there," he said.
A win in Los Angeles next Sunday would go far in heading off Kansas City's conference rivals, who are trying their best to pull away from them.
"No one [in our conference] wants to lose," said Arnaud. "To come back and get the tie in the last 10 minutes maybe can energize us for the next [four] games we have left."
A win might be tough when counting the Wizards' walking wounded after the contest. Midfielder Victorine suffered a contusion of his fifth metatarsal on his right foot in the match, though X-rays were negative. Center back Shavar Thomas came out with a right hamstring strain, and midfielder Diego Gutierrez, who was not on the substitutes' bench, has a right knee contusion.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.