KANSAS CITY, Mo.
7 pm CT (KSL[td])
The Kansas City Wizards have been bobbing like a cork up and down the Eastern Conference all year long, but are hopeful that a solid 1-0 victory at D.C. United last weekend - just their second win in their last eight games - sets the stage for a second half that could get them back to MLS Cup. For visiting Real Salt Lake it's going horribly wrong: winless now in 10 consecutive games in all competitions, including a 5-1 thrashing by Chivas USA last weekend (which ended their 11-game winless run) and getting dumped out by a lower division side in the U.S. Open Cup at midweek.
REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Rob Fereday; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Brent Sorg
MLS Career: 37 games; FC/gm: 32.8; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 8; pens: 14
Games involving Wizards: P6 W2 L3 T1; FC/gm: 34.5; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 3; pens: 3
Games involving Real: first game
INJURY REPORT: KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MF Diego Walsh (athletic pubalgia); GK Martin Hutton (L hamstring strain) ... REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: DF Rustin Pierce (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Paul Broome (L ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: FW Josh Wolff, DF Jimmy Conrad (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup); MF Khari Stephenson (Jamaica; CONCACAF Gold Cup) ... RSL: DF Eddie Pope (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup); MF Andy Williams (Jamaica; CONCACAF Gold Cup); MF Nikolas Besagno (U.S. U-17 national team)
WARNINGS: KC: Jose Burciaga Jr. (20 CP) ... RSL: Jason Kreis (17 CP)
ALL-TIME: first meeting
This is the first-ever meeting between the Wizards and expansion Real. They are scheduled to meet once more this season, in less than a month, on Aug. 13 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Coaches record: Bob Gansler vs. RSL: first game ... John Ellinger v KC: first game
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Kansas City Wizards posted a rare victory in Washington, D.C. and won on the road for the first time since May 14 (five matches), a late goal all they needed in a 1-0 victory against D.C. United on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. The three points moved Kansas City into third place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points from 17 matches, seven behind second-place New England Revolution but still just three points ahead of fifth place.
The Kansas City Wizards hadn't won a league match in Washington since Aug. 4, 1996 - though of course they did win MLS Cup 2000 at the ground.
It was a classic smash-and-grab mission for the Wizards, who soaked up pressure throughout the match before capitalizing on a United mistake 13 minutes from the end. Sasha Victorine picked off a pass and was allowed time and space to run at the United defense, before letting fly with a low shot from just outside the area that escaped the dive of Nick Rimando.
Wizards boss Bob Gansler made two changes to the team that lost to the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on the Fourth of July in Denver. Jack Jewsbury came in wide of the left of midfield as Preki returned to the substitutes' bench, while Davy Arnaud returned to the team, coming into attack for Davy Arnaud.
Here's Gansler's team (3-5-2): Bo Oshoniyi -Nick Garcia, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Chris Klein (Brian Roberts 80), Diego Gutierrez, Sasha Victorine, Kerry Zavagnin, Jack Jewsbury (Preki 71) - Davy Arnaud, Scott Sealy
"I think (the result) is something we earned," Gansler said. "We came in here saying it's beyond wanting to win - we absolutely have to win. And the guys played accordingly. I thought they worked hard but I also thought they worked in an intelligent fashion. Defensively, you can only make sure that you don't lose. Offensively you need to win the game. We had some opportunities that we wish we would have dealt better with, especially in the first half, but I think we were the deserved winners."
It was a return to a 3-5-2 scheme for the Wizards. "Today we mirrored their lineup," said Gansler, "which we don't usually do. (We wanted to) win the races in the wing channels. Jack Jewsbury and Chris Klein did a hell of a job. I wish we would have strapped an odometer on them because they did a lot of kilometers."
Sasha Victorine moved into a slightly more advanced role in the center of midfield, after having played as a right back to start the season, then moving into a more holding role in central midfield as national team call-ups hit the Wizards.
"Sasha is another guy who had put in a lot of miles. For him to carry it and keep his wits about him, it just underscores what a solid addition he has been for us," Gansler said. "We've pushed him around like a rejected stepbrother or something - he's played in three or four (different) positions for us. It's not because he didn't play well that we moved him, it's because we've felt there was a leak someplace else. He was our attacking midfielder (tonight) and he got us the goal."
In addition, Nick Garcia returned to a sweeper role in the center of the back three. It was a role he had played in college at Indiana University, but somewhat new at the professional level. "At [Indiana University] he came in as a freshman, and he was their sweeper. He was the guy who was in charge of barking out orders. He hasn't had to do it here all that often because of veteran people he was surrounded by," said Gansler.
"(I)t was just getting back to the basics and switching and the intricacies of doing that. I think it helped the team overall," said Garcia. "[Playing sweeper] gives me more freedom back there to do stuff and organize and have the team in front of me to put out the fires. That's what I did. It wasn't any more spectacular than Sasha's goal or somebody else's important plays. It just happens to be that I'm the last guy and happen to be closer to the goal."
Oshoniyi was credited with seven saves in getting the clean sheet, just their second in the past eight games.
"Bo is a good goalkeeper," said Gansler. "He's done his part early on - the whole team wasn't playing well defensively and we were giving up a lot of goals. People wanted to point the finger at him, (but) he was only part of it. And tonight he was only part of it; I also thought Nick (Garcia) played marvelously. He marshaled our defense, which is usually Jimmy Conrad's role more than his, and he played extremely well. He and Bo were parts of a good defensive effort."
Jimmy Conrad was the only Wizards player selected to the MLS All-Star Game, voted to start as a defender.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake saw their winless run extended to nine matches, losing to fellow expansion side Chivas USA for the second time this season, this time a 5-1 thrashing at The Home Depot Center last Saturday evening. Real are still hanging on to fifth place in the Western Conference with 13 points from 17 matches, four ahead of last-place Chivas USA and four behind the Colorado Rapids for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Chivas USA won for the first time since May 7 as they exploded all of their frustration in a 5-1 victory against fellow expansion club Real Salt Lake, matching the league-high in goals in a game this season.
Chivas opened the lead after just five minutes through an unfortunate own goal. Matt Taylor latched onto a clearance and drove a low cross back into a crowded goalmouth where it deflected off Brian Kamler's leg into the goal. Then Chivas doubled their lead barely after a quarter-hour was gone, Thiago Martins pulled back in the box by Real defender Cameron Knolwes and Hector Cuadros converting the resulting penalty (17).
Real pulled a goal back midway through the first half, as Clint Mathis hammered a low free kick past the wall and off the inside of the left-hand post of Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan and into the goal (23).
But Chivas hit for two goals in three minutes shortly after the restart to seal the match. Cuadros found Martinez with a terrific pass as Chivas quickly swung the play from right to left, and after he skipped into the area unmolested he beat Countess on an angled shot from inside the area (53). Then two minutes later the highly influential Taylor found the back of the net, working a give-and-go with Cuadros to perfection, collecting a neat backheel before knocking home a close-range shot.
Isaac Romo rounded out the scoreline in the 84th minute. Taylor intercepted a clearance and slipped a pass between a defender's legs to the substitute, who coolly sent a hard shot from close range past Countess.
Real head coach John Ellinger made three changes to the team that came back to claim a 2-2 draw with the MetroStars on the Fourth of July - two in central defense. Rusty Pierce was injured and Brian Dunseth suspended, meaning Matt Behncke and Cameron Knowles came into their places in the back four. Andy Williams was also on international duty, as Seth Trembly came back into the team.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-1-3-2): D.J. Countess - Nelson Akwari, Cameron Knowles, Matt Behncke (Leslie Fitzpatrick 63), Brian Kamler - Kenny Cutler - Chris Brown (Dipsy Selolwane 71), Clint Mathis, Seth Trembly - Jamie Watson (Dante Washington 77), Jason Kreis
"Chivas had a feeding frenzy on us," said dejected Ellinger after the match. "We probably played 25 minutes of decent soccer out of the 90. That was it ... It's frustrating, you're down 2-0, you get a goal and come back and actually at that point you're doing well. We played well until the end of the half and the second half we came out and nothing good happened."
The inexperience of RSL's defense was painfully evident throughout the match, as Eddie Pope (U.S. national team duty) was also unavailable along with the two starting center backs from the week before. Replacements Matt Behncke and Cameron Knowles had only eight starts between them this season.
"You have to clear the ball," Ellinger said about his defense's inability to keep Chivas' attack at bay. Of the "five goals scored on us, four of them were clearance problems. We worked on clearing the balls yesterday (in practice). If you can't clear the ball in the game, in this league, then you shouldn't be in the league. Plain and simple."
After Chivas took a 3-1 lead, Ellinger changed to a three-man backline in hopes of creating more opportunities for Mathis and Jason Kreis. The only opportunities that came from that move were for Chivas. In the second half, RSL could only muster one shot on goal to eight for Chivas.
"You have to take chances because you're down a goal," said Ellinger. "We changed the three in the back but (Chivas) didn't change anything because they've still got three forwards up there. That's why I say they had a feeding frenzy (on us). They were just driving, driving, driving forward. You can't fault them. We just didn't step up."
Eddie Pope was the only Real player selected to the MLS All-Star Game, voted to start as a defender.
The woes continued on Wednesday, as Real were dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by USL First Division side Minnesota Thunder (second tier) in a wild 6-4 third-round match in St. Paul, Minn. Jason Kreis scored a hat trick and Real twice held leads in the second half, but substitute Aaron Paye scored the leveler a minute before full time then the final of the two Thunder goals in extra time as the Minnesota club added to their giant-killing exploits in the cup.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Jay Nolly - Chris Brown (Dante Washington 74), Brian Dunseth, Brian Kamler (Jordan Cila 103), Nelson Akwari - Kenny Cutler, Tiger Fitzpatrick (Luke Kreamalmeyer 46), Seth Trembly, Clint Mathis - Jamie Watson (Dipsy Selolwane 84), Jason Kreis