The Kansas City Wizards took sole possession of the top spot in the Western conference and all of Major League Soccer with a 1-0 defeat of the MetroStars, thanks to Josh Wolff's eighth goal of the season, Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium. With 38 points in 24 games, the Wizards lead the West by two points over the surging Colorado Rapids.
The Metros played the match having only three substitutes due to various national team commitments and injuries and with a youthful backline featuring dual 23-year-old's, Kenny Arena and Jeff Parke. Kansas City missed midfielder Kerry Zavagnin due to U.S. national team duty, but the team also was without injured goalkeeper Tony Meola and midfielder Chris Klein. The Wizards also learned that reigning MVP Preki is done for the season as he will undergo surgery soon to tighten up his left ankle that was injured during the preseason.
Both teams came into the match leading their respective divisions, but they only combined for four wins in their last 10 matches. With each team hoping to get on a roll as they entered the stretch run of the season, play began with urgency but lacking in polish.
Probing yet sloppy midfield play dominated during the opening minutes of the first half with erratic crosses being played into the box by the Metros. Play began to open up slightly however as the Wizards' used a handful of through balls testing goalkeeper Jonny Walker's ability to anticipate and snuff them out.
The most promising penetration for Kansas City began with a quick interchange in the midfield that culminated with a nicely weighted ball from forward Josh Wolff through to Jack Jewsbury. Jewsbury passed on his chance to catch the onrushing Walker off balance, instead taking a few touches and then putting his shot into Walker near the top of the box.
The MetroStars' best opportunity came in the 31st minute as Sergio Galvan Ray unleashed a blast from near the top of the area forcing Kansas City 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi to leap to his left to deflect the ball out of play.
The Wizards finally drew blood in the 43rd minute as Davy Arnaud fed Matt Taylor, positioned at the top right of the Metro's box. Taylor looked to fire but spied Jose Burciaga Jr. overlapping on his left. Burciaga received the pass and struck a shot on goal that Walker could only parry to Wolff, who made no mistake driving the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Seventeen-year-old Eddie Gaven nearly brought the MetroStars level in the 51st minute at the top of the penalty area as he juked K.C.'s Francisco Gomez to the turf and fired a right-footed shot headed for the bottom left corner of Oshoniyi's net. The Wizard's net minder proved able as he pushed the ball over the endline.
Lacking adequate midfield support, the close calls for the young Metro backline continued throughout the second half as Arena nearly put the Wizards up 2-0 in the 62nd minute when he put a Burciaga cross into the right side-netting of his own goal, while Wizards Taylor and Wolff threatened more than once.
The Wizards flirted with disaster in the 83rd and 89th minute as they gave two good looks to the desperately determined MetroStars. But Tim Regan's blistering shot and Fabian Taylor's toe poke were not enough to beat Oshoniyi.
The Wizards have seven games left on the schedule, all against Western division foes as they look to gain the top seed in the MLS playoffs. Their next match is Friday against Colorado (9:30 p.m. ET) in Denver. The MetroStars will look to over take the first-place Columbus Crew in the East, as they play New England (6 p.m. ET, HDNet) on Saturday, Sept. 11.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)
MetroStars (9-9-6) vs. Kansas City Wizards (11-8-5)
September 04, 2004 -- Arrowhead Stadium
KC -- Josh Wolff 8 (unassisted) 43
Jonny Walker, Tenywa Bonseu, Kenny Arena, Jeff Parke, Chris Leitch, Tim Regan, Ricardo Clark, Sergio Galvan Rey (Fabian Taylor 56), Pablo Brenes, Eddie Gaven, John Wolyniec.
Substitutes Not Used: Seth Stammler, Zach Wells.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Fabian Taylor 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Fabian Taylor 2); FOULS: 12 (John Wolyniec 3); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5 (Pablo Brenes 5); SAVES: 5 (Jonny Walker 5)
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr., Francisco Gomez (Taylor Graham 63), Jack Jewsbury (Diego Walsh 56), Matt Taylor (Justin Detter 87), Diego Gutierrez, Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
Substitutes Not Used: Will Hesmer, Preki, Vuk Rasovic, Igor Simutenkov, Khari Stephenson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Matt Taylor 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Jack Jewsbury 2); FOULS: 20 (Diego Gutierrez 4); OFFSIDES: 4 (Davy Arnaud 3); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Francisco Gomez 2, Diego Walsh 2); SAVES: 5 (Bo Oshoniyi 5)
KC -- Jimmy Conrad (caution; Pushing, Holding) 15
MET -- Tim Regan (caution; Tackle from Behind) 48
MET -- Fabian Taylor (caution; Reckless Foul) 59
KC -- Nick Garcia (caution; Tackle from Behind) 82
KC -- Taylor Graham (caution; Reckless Foul) 91+
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Jose Corro
4th Official: Abiodun Okulaja
Time of Game: 1:50
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.