The Kansas City Wizards advanced to the U.S. Open Cup Final after shutting out the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Tuesday night. The game's lone goal came by virtue of an Igor Simutenkov penalty just before the end of the first half and it was the Wizards defense that took over from there. The Wizards backline unit completely shut down the potent Earthquakes attack limiting the visitors to just six total shots, including none by forward Landon Donovan.
The Wizards victory sends them to their first U.S. Open Cup Final and just the second overall championship match (2000 MLS Cup) in franchise history. Kansas City will await the outcome the other Semifinal match between the Chicago Fire and the Charleston Battery (A-League) that will be played on Wednesday, August 25th to determine their opponent and the site of the Open Cup Final.
Should the Fire win tomorrow, the Wizards would host the final at Arrowhead Stadium on Wednesday, September 22nd at 7:30 p.m. CT. If the Batter upset the Fire, then the Wizards would travel to Charleston to face the Battery at Blackbaud Stadium on September 22nd. Fans can follow tomorrow's Semifinal match live via audio webcast by logging on to www.mlsnet.com. The match will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. CT.
Tuesday's match began with a rapid pace for both sides, as the ball swiftly ran from end to end propelled by purposeful passes out of the back and clever midfield interplay that fed the energetic frontlines. In the fourth minute however, San Jose's strike force was stripped of MLS scoring leader, Brian Ching, as a collision with Jimmy Conrad knocked the Quakes' forward out of the match with a left ankle sprain. Arturo Alvarez was inserted in right midfield for San Jose three minutes later.
The injury did little to slow either club as the fast-paced action continued. Wizards' left winger Alex Zotinca was the recipient of a number of driven crosses in the first 11 minutes of play, but was unable to beat goalkeeper Jon Conway. Zotinca had three separate opportunities in front of the goal after having his way down the left flank, but all three times he was denied by Conway.
It seemed that a skillfully played first half would end without a goal for either side as the clock ticked down. But in the 43rd minute Kansas City was rewarded for their attacking play as Igor Simutenkov fed a nice ball in between traffic to Josh Wolff who wound through the congested box and was taken down by Ryan Cochrane as he tried to latch onto the pass. Referee Kevin Terry pointed to the penalty spot and gave the Wizards an opportunity to carry a surge of momentum into the locker room. Simutenkov stepped up to take the kick and drilled a low bullet down the center of the goal, catching Conway leaning far to his right unable to reach back for the ball before it rippled in the back netting.
Wizards' midfielder Preki made his second appearance of the season coming on for Simutenkov at the break and repeatedly threatened with his patented cut back move creating chances for Wolff and himself early in the second stanza. The most dangerous chance occurred in the 73rd minute as Preki cut near midfield and played Wolff in alone with Conway. Wolff beat Conway deep in the right corner of the box, but his cross was cleared off the line by Jeff Agoos for a corner.
San Jose was never out of the match as they pushed forward mainly through DeRosario as Donovan dropped to midfield in place of the substituted Ekelund. But it was the Wizards defense that took over and turned away the Earthquakes desperate attacks, one after the other. With a little clock management in the dying minutes, the Wizards were able to preserve the 1-0 win and clinch their first ever trip to the U.S. Open Cup Final.
The Wizards will be off this weekend and return to MLS action on Wednesday, September 1st when they travel to Chicago to face the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field. The match will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. CT. The Wizards will return home on Saturday, September 4th when they host the MetroStars at Arrowhead Stadium with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.